Post-rock is a genre that is better suited on soundtracks than most other genres simply because of how cinematic and primarily instrumental the music is. The blueprint of earth-rattling builds and crescendos that post-rock artists abide by makes for perfect music to score a wide range of dramatic moments such as heartbreak, tragedy, and victory against impossible odds. Explosions in the Sky are no newcomers to the realm of soundtracks, and it’s necessary to mention their work as film score composers on the Friday Night Lights
motion picture soundtrack for this very reason. Friday Night Lights
saw Explosions in the Sky constructing the music they would regularly create on their own studio albums -- due to how well their brand of post-rock suited the initial television program incarnation of Friday Night Lights
with their piece “First Breath After Coma” -- so their collaborative score with David Wingo for Prince Avalanche
in comparison, marks the first time that the band is morphing their regular design to suit the film itself.
The Prince Avalanche
soundtrack showcases Explosions in the Sky greatly reducing the approach of building up to grandiose heights that fans have become accustomed to, and opting to spread the expansiveness of their sound out around them instead. The resulting changes are anything but subtle, as Explosions in the Sky do sound different; so different in fact, that they barely sound like themselves at the majority of points. This soundtrack may be refreshing for anyone who has grown wearisome of the loud repetition that Explosions in the Sky have continued to produce on their studio albums, as the band has never been this calm, meditative, summery, and deducted to frailty before now. This kind of music suits the overriding vibes of Prince Avalanche
atmospherically, but with all the grand-scale ravaged shots of scenery in the film, the epic sense that Explosion in the Sky’s signature astronomical post-rock compositions bring would have been more than a perfect fit, and the significant lack of that kind of music on this soundtrack unfortunately can’t help but feel like a missed opportunity more than anything else.
Being post-rock titans, Explosions in the Sky typically don’t shy away from tracks that exceed 10 minutes in length, but the tracks on Prince Avalanche
show a lot of restraint on the band’s part, with most songs barely making the 3 minute mark. This is very minimal music for Explosions in the Sky all around; it’s predominately led by acoustic and ambient elements, and these gentle and delicate mood pieces display little to no indication of the swift progressive pacing that is usual for the group. The absence of that and the inclusion of an ambient direction can be attributed to composer David Wingo, and is evident in how the contributions from both of these artists are anything but equally balanced. In an ironic sense, much like the two men of very much opposite personalities in the film itself, Wingo and Explosions in the Sky’s opposing sounds don’t work together as well as they could. The main issue is that Wingo covers the droning ambient department of the music here, and regardless of how well drone music and post-rock have gone hand-in-hand in the past, what Wingo brings to the table doesn’t feel like anything Explosions in the Sky have shown on their past albums that they could have done themselves. Furthermore, since Wingo’s subdued drone music is allowed to lead the show, and Explosions in the Sky have promptly benched their soaring scope in order for him to properly do so, this collaboration doesn’t feel like it’s fairly shared. Explosions in the Sky are maimed and weighed down to earth by Wingo, seemingly too cautious of over-powering him.
When all is said and done, there’s really not outright interesting music to be found here. These are very short and sweet compositions that lack the urgent sense of direction, and cascading emotion that Explosions in the Sky could have provided them if they were to flourish as opposed to remaining as limited as they are here. It’s a fine example of two opposite sounds not coming together with smooth success, and while the drone music Wingo specializes in is a genre that has never called for recognizable traits, Explosions in the Sky suffer from an immense lack of identity on this. This is different than any type of music they’ve produced so far for sure, but it’s a refrained grounding rather than a reinvention or a pushing of their boundaries, and it’s really up to fans to determine how much the difference is worth if the group virtually sound nothing like themselves, and nowhere near what they’ve demonstrated to be fully capable of.