Explosions In The Sky: Welcome, Ghosts

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By: Dennis Cook

Explosions In The Sky
Flipping channels in the Summer evening heat, I stopped cold when I hit Late Night With Conan O'Brien and the red haired former Simpsons writer-producer announced the musical guests. Explosions In The Sky aren't the kind of band you expect to come across on a hugely popular national talk show. The Austin, Texas-based instrumental rock quartet has been around since 1999 but has recently found their sumptuous, emotionally charged music coloring the edges of mainstream culture in places like Conan O'Brien and the Friday Night Lights theatrical film and television series, where their mix of gossamer swirl and oddly muscular exploration is center stage every episode.

"We think of things more emotionally than spiritually, even though there's a lot of overlap between the two," says drummer Christopher Hrasky. "It has to move us in some way. It has to be something that strikes a chord with all four of us. Most of the stuff we write gets thrown away, which is why it takes us four years to make an album [laughs]. It has to hit us on a gut level."

Through four brilliant studio albums, soundtrack work and constant touring, Explosions have carved out a career that makes zero artistic compromises. Their sound is the same revelation Tortoise was a decade earlier. EITS is the evolutionary step between that Chicago institution and celebrated wordless contemporaries like Fridge and fellow Temporary Residence label mates Maserati. Built on Hrasky's massively powerful yet deeply nuanced drums and the frictionless, compelling elasticity of bassist Michael James – two masters of smartly restrained playing – it is the ridiculously lyrical guitars of Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani that first draw you in. The pair reminds one of Bill Frisell, Tortoise's Jeff Parker and Norway's indefinable Terje Rypdal all rolled into one thick package. Together, the four men collectively compose miniature tone-movies with titles like "Six Days At The Bottom of the Ocean" and "What Do You Go Home To?"

Explosions In The Sky
"It's very organic. No one comes in and tells the others what their part is. It's very much back and forth. I don't play guitar but it's an open environment to suggest how they can play. There isn't a lot of ego involved with the writing. All of us want to make the best music we can and we're open to any ideas the others have," offers Hrasky.

Their latest album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (released 2.20.07 on Temporary Residence), has a slightly different vibe than earlier releases, something less elusive with increased power chord oomph.

"There's definitely some Pete Townsend windmill action happening," Hrasky says. "We wanted this record to be a bit more ragged sounding as opposed, particularly, to the last record [2003's jaw-droppingly beautiful The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place]. My mom listens to the last record a lot but I don't know if she'll listen to this new one as much! Also, recording-wise, it sounds much more like we do live. Nothing is too planned out when we write music. We wanted to make something a little more rock, a little less ornate. At the same time, I don't think the record sounds like AC/DC [laughs]!"

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