Listening to Explosions in the Sky for me has always been like that lump in your throat moment in a great film. The tragic losses, the triumphant successes, and the moment when you realize everything is going to be all right despite all the downs you’ve gone through to get there. They soundtrack both figuratively and literally those moments in life when something great is still something questionable, but has the potential for greatness. Albums like Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, All of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, and Take Care, Take Care, Take Care were these emotional bombs. The songs ebbed and flowed and told a non-existent tale of love, loss, redemption, and a life worth living; a life worth saving. They pushed through the field of instrumental bands that came before and after them and always remained true to their sound. And that sound was crystalline, shimmering guitars that could get a dirty jangle going from time to time, as well as bombastic drums that sound just as orchestral as they do rock and roll. As well as their own albums they’ve also delved into the world of film scoring, making beautiful music for two of David Gordon Green’s films, Prince Avalanche and Manglehorn, both of which they worked alongside David Wingo.
So Explosions In the Sky could have continued to make amazing instrumental rock albums that would inspire navel gazing in thousands of wandering souls for years and I’d keep on buying and listening with glee. But instead of doing that, EitS decided to take a few years and reconnect musically, going off and doing side projects like Inventions with Mark T. Smith and Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper, as well as the aforementioned film soundtracks. They’ve returned with The Wilderness, an album that takes the band’s expansive and exploratory sound and works in electronic and more atmospheric textures. It’s the best album they’ve released in years.
“Wilderness” floats along like a dream within a dream. Mark T. Smith’s work in Inventions is present immediately as synth and electronic textures come in and out of the mix. EitS haven’t lost any of their emotional heft, they’ve just given it a new, futuristic sheen. “The Ecstatics” feels like the unveiling of something great. More electronics mixed into the EitS formula make for something quite fantatsic. “Tangle Formations” is carried along by big drums and a lovely piano line. Another sweeping epic that moves the listener to another place and time.
I’ve always been amazed by how big of a sound just four guys could create. All of their albums sounded so symphonic. The Wilderness is no exception. Each track is its own world, and with the added ear candy each listen gives you something new to find. “Logic Of A Dream” is all pomp and circumstance as it starts out then guitar, piano and tribal drums come in with an urgency and rushed contemplation. The track seems to melt into the earth before reforming on a steady drum beat and dream-like melody. “Disintegration Anxiety” is a perfect example of how EitS have revamped and rebuilt their sound from the ground up. It’s a driving track that works in new sounds and vibes into their already great formula. At times “Disintegration Anxiety” sounds like Battles on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It’s a forward-thinking sound. A futuristic vision of EitS. “Losing The Light” feels like floating in space. It’s weightless contemplation. Taking in your surroundings and pushing to understand them.
The Wilderness is an album of self-exploration from beginning to end. “Infinite Orbit” feels like a tumble through the milky way, while “Colors In Space” is gazing into infinity itself. The big questions answered, or just creating more questions. Each track is a journey into the great unknown, whether it be space or ourselves. Explosions in the Sky have never faltered in asking the big questions through music. The Wilderness is some of the biggest questions yet. Repeated listens will give you the answers.
9.1 out 10