Since 1999, Explosions in the Sky have refined a formula without sounding formulaic.
Now, after five years working on three soundtracks, they return with an LP that sounds remarkably like….Explosions in the Sky! The band trades on the ecstatic moment when soft turns to loud, drums explode and guitars careen out of control in a massive wall of sound. Yet unlike previous albums, The Wilderness isn’t quite so rough around the edges. More melody emerges from the squall.
Opener, ‘Wilderness’ burbles along, keyboards come into focus and a riff of sorts begins to emerge as drums softly enter the mix. Guitars appear, upping the ante. Finally with 1:45 left the hugeness arrives as a descending guitar pattern draws the piece to its conclusion. The simple piano pattern of ‘Tangle Formations’, eight notes up and down, explodes with drums and piano suddenly huge less than a minute into the piece juxtaposed against frenetic drums. Cascading guitar enters with 1:45 left in the track as drums become even bigger and more frenetic.
The band, having relied on their own production resources from day one share the controls for the first time with veteran producer John Congleton. Together they have crafted an undeniable internal rationale for each piece. ‘Logic of a Dream’ evolves into moments of sheer terror before coming back into control, the drums and guitars creating a sense of sanity in the dream world. Softly, ‘Disintegration Alley’ begins falling apart as it grows louder before drums and guitar deliver a rhythmic swing, moving the piece forward at a rapid pace.
There’s a sense of gentility to ‘Colours in Space’. Yet amidst the beauty there is a sense that it could all crumble to rubble at any moment that begins to dominate as the song rushes headlong to its full-stop conclusion. The calm and beauty of ‘Landing Cliffs’ never leaves, even as the song gets louder. Initially built on keys, when the guitars enter they only add to the beauty; they get progressively louder before falling away to a conclusion with just drums and keys.
What The Wilderness offers listeners is a sense of subtlety as the band careens headlong into the wall sound. Each moment offers a sense of excitement as the band peers over the precipice into the chaos below. The ride may be slightly less bumpy than before, yet the highlights are undeniably ecstatic.
Writer: Bob Fish