Explosions In The Sky: The Wilderness – album review
Explosions In The Sky: The Wilderness (Temporary Residence)
LP | CD | DL
As the seventh studio album from post rock icons Explosions In The Sky, The Wilderness is a record full of emotionally charged moments of quiet subtlety, emphatic life affirming melodies and sprinklings of musical genius. Bursting with fresh ideas and vigour this record is a highlight of not only the bands back catalogue but of the post rock genre itself.
Louder Than War’s Adam Jones reviews.
There are many superlatives that can be used to describe the gorgeous and lush soundscapes produced by one of post rocks guiding lights Explosions in the Sky. With the release of the bands latest effort, entitled The Wilderness, the group have yet again created a collection of work that showcases a perfect understanding of atmosphere and dynamics spread across nine mesmerising tracks.
With post rock often facing criticism for overly long songs and repetitive song structure The Wilderness seems to overhaul the preconceived notion of what the genre is. This record features more trimmed down songs which manage to keep all the bands musical complexities intact whilst compressing them into easier to swallow pieces. Only a couple of songs on this album appear to break the six-minute mark and as already mentioned Explosions in the Sky manage to do this without comprising their sound. These shorter tracks never allow ideas to become stale and laboured allowing the band to express themselves both musically and emotionally within a more accessible song length.
As The Wilderness clocks in around the 45-minute mark the record feels a perfect length for what the band hope to achieve. Over the course of its nine tracks you are greeted by a diverse collection of songs incorporating a multitude of musical ideas taking influence from multiple genres. An albums flow is something which is often overlooked when accessing a record but it’s something that is incredibly important upon returning listens. The Wilderness certainly has a perfect flow to it, never feeling rushed whilst at the same time never feeling bloated either.
With such a diverse collection of tracks there needs to be a level cohesiveness tying the record together. Tracks like Losing The Light give this album some breathing room between two of its more emphatic and energetic songs. This song does a great job of just bringing the album back to a slow pace as brooding melancholic keys are accompanied by mournful strings against a backdrop of subtle yet beautiful synths. Subtlety is one of this albums biggest strengths as despite the layers upon layers of instruments and melodies nothing is ever overbearing and obnoxious. The aforementioned synths can be heard all over The Wilderness as the band have clearly looked to include a more electronic feel adding a different dynamic to the more guitar driven world of post rock. Second track The Ecstatics sums up this relatively new approach most with its electronic drums and bass heavy synths being at the forefront of a beautifully layered melody. There are multiple ways the band use this newer sound to their advantage as penultimate track Colors In Space uses everything in the bands arsenal to slowly draw you in before quickly jack-knifing you into a pounding emphatic rhythm.
The understanding of dynamics on this record is also that is something which is again truly phenomenal. Explosions In The Sky may not go for the quiet, loud dynamic used by other post rock artists such as Mogwai but the way they shift between mood and atmosphere is quite astonishing. One minute you can be embraced in an ethereal soundscape full of optimism and positivity before coming crashing back down into a moody, melancholic pit of despair. The way The Wilderness has such a tight grip on your emotions is what makes this type of music truly great. A song like Tangle Formations typifies this as it goes to and fro between a propelling driving jaunt and an almost prog-rock style spaced out vibe.
Every instrument on this album works perfectly in achieving every mood and every sound the band are going for on The Wilderness. You have the mesmerising bass work on the opening of Disintegration Anxiety, a song which also features one of the records most impactful guitar riffs with its staccato fret work sounding somewhat indie rock-esque. It also has to be mentioned just how outstanding the drumming is on this record. With post rock drummers having to mostly play the backseat to the rest of the band in order to avoid ruining the broody atmospheric vibes the drum work on The Wilderness is key in making it such a standout. The previously mentioned Tangle Formations wouldn’t be such a musical highlight if it wasn’t for the pounding rhythm provided by the drums. Whilst other songs intricate builds wouldn’t have as much as a bang without the masterfully thought out drum tracks.
It’s also necessary to state that Explosions In The Sky manage to produce this incredible feat of musical prowess without the aid of a vocalist. Mentioning that a post rock band don’t require vocals is kind of old hat by now but it’s still important to mention just emotionally powerful this record is regardless of the lack of an instant human connection. There are still infectiously catchy melodies and passages here that will stick in your head for days on end and to accomplish this with their musicianship alone is something to be applauded.
In summation The Wilderness is a real highlight in a year already brimming with remarkable records. There isn’t really anything negative to say about this album and it’s difficult to see many other of Explosions In The Sky’s contemporaries producing anything comparably brilliant any time soon. For fans of anything post rock this album is certainly something to check out and for anyone who considers themselves a fan of this band they certainly won’t be disappointed.
All words by Adam Jones. More of Adam’s writing can be found at his authors archive.