Explosions in the Sky
The Widerness, 180G Super Deluxe 2LP Black Vinyl
Explosions in the Sky are the kind of band that you think about in terms of scale. There is the sheer size of their songs, but also of the group: They've sold out Radio City Music Hall and play larger concert halls (which is surprising for a rock band without a vocalist); they famously soundtracked "Friday Night Lights," a number of motion pictures, and their songs shows up on dozens of television shows. But their sixth album, The Wilderness, the first non-soundtrack collection since 2011's Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, feels remarkably small. Shifting inward and turning their gaze toward minutiae, the group still manages to create something that resonates in as grand a way, just via different means, and it's their best since 2003's The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.
Like Cold Dead Place, The Wilderness gives you a sense of a landscape, but instead of a march towards a vast horizon, it feels like burrowing in to escape the cold. Those signature crescendos and climaxes are present, but just as often you find yourself contemplating near-silent electronic details or wisps of sound. On first listen The Wilderness sounds almost like a whisper; as you do dig in, the details grow and resonate. It's like taking a pause on a hike and realizing just how many sounds there are in what seemed like silence. The Austin band has been around since 1999, and you get the sense that they're searching for new paths to achieve their original goals.
For the most part, the songs feel segmented and self-contained, standalone compositions instead of pieces of an overall fabric. They return time again to distorted drums that sometimes feel like echoes in a cave, other times like a crumbling landslide, while the guitars are generally crystalline and precise, sometimes taking on the texture of strings. It resembles Inventions, guitarist Mark T. Smith's more electronic side project with Eluvium, blended with Explosions' usual dramatics.