Bella Union – 1st April 2016
Explosions in the Sky have long been more than merely synonymous with post-millennium post-rock: their early albums effectively set the template for virtually every other band in the field with their delicate guitar work and epic crescendos. It’s been five years since their last album, and ‘The Wilderness’ finds Explosions in exploratory form.
It’s epic, for sure, and it’s also brooding, nuanced, detailed. The title track has all of the standard ingredients and gets the album off to a gentle start. So far, so much business as usual.
But the album as a while feels far from formulaic, and it would be a stretch to align many of the tracks here to any genre other than progressive. There are bold, rumbling pianos and drums that roll like thunder as vast sonic vistas unfurl. But instead of the storm of crescendos, there are expansive near-ambient passages, flickers and bubbles of electronica
Urgent drumming underpins the moody ‘Infinite Orbit’, which actually feels like an intro passage to a latter—day Swans track and is one of a number of shorter tracks that point to a relatively concise album – in fact, only three of the nine pieces here extend past six minutes, with the dark and sombre ‘Logic of a Dream’ proving to be one of the most expansive tracks both in terms of duration and sonic reach.
Perhaps ironically, then, while it does feel like Explosions are striving to tread new ground, in abandoning the trademark dynamics that defined the post-rock genre, they’ve produced an album that lacks any sense of action. It’s pleasant, mellow, even. It doesn’t make you feel anything (yes, when I write ‘you’ I’m projecting my own experience as a listener onto you, the reader, both individually and collectively), and ultimately it’s bland and inessential. It’s a proggy post-rock album in an endless desert of proggy post-rock albums. A wilderness indeed.