Monday, June 20, 2016

Albums of the Mid-Year (2016)

With The Wilderness, Explosions in the Sky have released their best album since The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place.  The record showcases a band working both within and outside of their well-known brand of post-rock: yes, stargazing guitars and blistering drums still define their work, but the band also continues to diversify its instrumentation and, more notably, eschews their effective-but-well-trodden soft-loud formula for songs that genuinely surprise.  Instead of the seven-to-ten-minute epics that build to explosions, we get shorter songs that yield different payoffs: the radiant warmth of "Wilderness," the ever-building, wiry guitars on "Tangle Formations," the visceral burst on "Infinite Orbit," the distorted sirens on "Losing the Light," and the jarring shriek on "Colors in Space."  Then there's "Logic of a Dream," perhaps the band's most adventurous and effective song to date: a track that captures the illogical "logic" of a dream for all its beauty, horror, and flat-out weirdness.  The song reproduces the ways a dream can be beautiful, rational, and even profound and then, in an instant, terrifying, chaotic, and senseless.  Perhaps even more impressively, the song marries hypnotic and alluring sounds with nightmarish noise in a compressed six-and-a-half minutes of music.  For nearly two decades, the band has been making lengthy songs whose finales elicit powerful reactions from listeners, but here the group demonstrates an ability to evoke strong reactions in seconds, not minutes--to frighten and comfort listeners several times over without sounding rushed or unorganized.  Fear, bliss, chaos, order organically bleeding in and out of one another--what a wonderful depiction of a dream, and a microcosm of life.

(more later)

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