Explosions in the Sky are back. It’s been a while since 2011’s ‘Take Care, Take Care, Take Care’ and in the meantime, the band has been composing a series of film soundtracks for movies like Manglehorn and Lone Survivor. This period of involvement in the film industry definitely shows through on this latest effort ‘The Wilderness’, an album with a clear cinematic feel and even a kind of narrative structure to go with it.
The band are famed for their jangling guitar build ups and powerful crescendos and while these do feature in ‘The Wilderness’ they are a little more subtle and not as plentiful. The album also features a much wider range of instrumentation than previous efforts, with pianos, synths and string arrangements present at various points in the album.
The narrative structure, previously mentioned, begins with some sprightly opening songs ‘Wilderness’, ‘The Ecstatics’ and ‘Tangle Formations’ are all quite standard fare for EITS. Life affirming and positive in most every way, these are all well produced and sound very cinematic with a great feeling of hope present throughout. The instrumentation across the first two tracks is spacious and constantly builds and falls in intensity over the course of the tracks. ‘Tangle Formations’ switches it up slightly by upping the tempo and bringing in some piano backing to the track.
The next stage of the album encompasses another three tracks ‘Logic of a Dream’, ‘Disintegration Anxiety’ and ‘Losing the Light’. This trio bring a new, darker and altogether more claustrophobic atmosphere to ‘The Wilderness’, all three are palpably tense throughout with more bass-heavy crushing instrumentation. ‘Logic of a Dream’ even incorporates some jarring, discordant singing above the drone-inspired guitars and synths. The staccato picking for the guitar riff on ‘Disintegration Anxiety’ is a real highlight of the album and brings the song itself up to being possibly the best on the record.
‘Infinite Orbit’ is the shortest song on the album and as such seems to act as more of a bridge between the darker middle three tracks and the final two tracks which present a sense of triumph to see out the album. More classic in post-rock terms, ‘Colours in Space’ is a series of building and dissipating tension with a feel and sound distinct from the previous two blocks of songs. We are then given the closer ‘Landing Cliffs’ a supremely effective closer to the album with ethereal backing instrumentation and reverb-laden guitars present across the song, a great way to finish the album.
Overall, ‘The Wilderness’ is an undoubtedly soundtrack inspired effort and a strong return to studio albums from Explosions in The Sky. It is helped by its strong structure, going from hopeful and naïve to a darker, more crushing atmosphere before finishing in triumph. The record is still unmistakeably an Explosions in The Sky album, but with a wider range of instruments, a larger scope and more variance in the sounds throughout its runtime, ‘The Wilderness’ is a hugely interesting listen with more than enough to excite fans and newcomers alike.
‘The Wilderness’ is out now via Temporary Residence Limited
This Explosions In The Sky article was written by Matt Amery, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.