Review Summary: A thrilling and bold expedition out of the ordinary and into the unknown.
Explosions In The Sky isn’t exactly a band that strikes joy into the heart of every post-rock aficionado anymore, and it has nothing to do with the band’s talent level. After all, nobody questions that these guys can play
, and some of the crescendos that they’ve crafted over the years will stand tall as historical examples of the heights to which the genre can aspire. The problem, recently anyway, has been a perceived lack of imagination. It seemed that following The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place
, each successive release was merely a retread of that incredible experience – only with diminished satisfaction for every additional time we heard sparkling guitars, clashing cymbals, and earth-shattering drums. It was quite simply time for a change, and even though basically any alteration would have sufficed, The Wilderness
presents us with a road that is both less traveled and far more scenic than the one we’ve watched them travel for approximately the last ten years.
Explosions’ seventh studio album is easily their most concise offering to date, even if it is far from their most focused. They’ve eliminated a great deal of the instrumental wanderings and epic climaxes that have defined the band for the vast majority of its existence. Despite the stark departures, though, there is no identity crisis to be found. The band feels right at home as it tests different approaches – at times dabbling in electronics while during other moments bending its sonic prowess to concoct mesmerizing ambient soundscapes. Instead of feeling boxed in and tied to the earth by its brevity, the The Wilderness
seems liberated and poised to take flight. With every iridescent sound and unpredictable twist, you can feel the group’s potential soaring to loftier heights. Here, Explosions In The Sky take the pressure to change and transform it into an opportunity for unlimited growth – and perhaps the best part of it all is that they make the entire transition feel like a seamless, natural progression.
The band’s evolution can be heard from the opening moments, as reverberated backbeats rattle the music’s core like tremors following an earthquake. On past outings, Explosions In The Sky would have spent five to eight minutes building towards that huge, unforgettable earthquake no matter what. Here, the band seems content to let us sway to-and-fro in the aftershock, and it’s a refreshingly direct approach. Throughout the record, Explosions In The Sky also demonstrate a keener sense of stylistic balance by allowing colder, more foreign electronic/ambient elements to coexist with their familiarly warm and glistening approach. The opposite sides of the spectrum complement each other quite nicely, as is evidenced through the unforgettable ‘Disintegration Anxiety’ – a track that mixes bubbling acoustic guitars with very precise, borderline mechanical percussive contributions (all within a deceptively complex time signature, no less). No matter which side of the coin you prefer, it’s safe to say that this band has never been more balanced.
In an album full of eclectic stylistic ambition, perhaps no track encompasses the entire experience better than ‘Landing Cliffs.’ The song feels like a breath of new life, shimmering with gorgeous piano notes while pirouetting in a light, spacey atmosphere that is immersive but not oppressive. The beauty of the actual
wilderness will come to mind immediately: water rushing over a pristine cliff, clouds rolling across the sky, their shadows marking the ground like puppets in a play – it’s simply breathtaking. When hearing ‘Landing Cliffs’, it feels like you’re experiencing so much more than sounds tossed together on a musical canvas. It’s like you’re truly living, transported from your cozy quarters to somewhere far away and more beautiful than you could ever imagine. It’s an incredible curtain call, and it ties all of the swirling ideas within this album into one stunning little piece that’s worthy of unending adoration.
At any given point during The Wilderness
, there’s unforetold beauty such as this just waiting to be discovered by anyone who’s willing to let their minds do a little bit of exploring. It’s true that the album is meant to be divisive, and it’s important to recognize that as a strength. Steadfast advocates of the group’s traditional sound will want to gradually test the waters here, as basically every color on Explosions’ palette has been in some way or another utilized. It makes The Wilderness
all the more expansive, but as we all know, some progress takes time before it can be truly appreciated. In this case however, Explosions In The Sky make a piece that is nearly impossible to resist for very long. It’s warm, engaging, and possesses incredible aural imagery. This is a band that has truly resurrected themselves, having climbed out of a pool of stagnancy to craft what can only be considered one of the most creative and immediately likeable albums of the year. Don’t let the band’s recent output fool you into looking past this…it is quite plainly a must hear post-rock album in a time when such important and relevant post-rock music is an endangered kind.