Words by: Eric Liebetrau | Images by: Scott Fleishman
Explosions In The Sky :: 04.08.08 :: Terminal 5 :: New York, NY
More than once, members of the Austin-based Explosions in the Sky have noted that they don't consider themselves a "post-rock" band. They prefer to be labeled - as if such labels carried any significance - a rock band, period. Over the course of their four albums, Explosions has demonstrated a penchant for sprawling, distorted walls of sound leavened by extended periods of melodic build and delicate interplay. Exploring territory shared by Sigur Rós (minus the Icelandic vocals) and Do Make Say Think, they evince more pop earnestness than say Godspeed You! Black Emperor but they don't dabble in nearly as much electronic gadgetry or slanted rhythms as supposed "post-rock" pioneers Tortoise.
In 2004, the band's particularly contemplative brand of instrumental rock found a home as the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed movie, and eventual TV series, Friday Night Lights. The papery guitar lines and careful orchestration of momentum fit well with the show's cross-cutting storylines, but since then the band has shown more interest in exploring the range of sound that exists within multiple distorted, chiming guitars. Each climax on 2007's All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone seems amped and extended just a notch more than their previous albums.
Whatever the designation, one aspect of "rock" is clearly present in an Explosions show, volume, and a trait fully on display during their sold-out performance at Terminal 5 in Manhattan. Sporting the three-guitar assault of Munaf Rayani, Mark Smith and Michael James (who occasionally used a bass), and the tasteful but effectively propulsive drumming of Chris Hrasky, they moved through a repertoire of well-received selections from each album.
The young crowd, probably one of the largest EITS has seen, ate up most of the set, exhorting the band as they reached higher and higher in their tension-and-release structures of such fan favorites as "Magic Hours" and "The Birth and Death of the Day." All the jam fans in attendance - especially those who enjoy Phish's "Harry Hood," "Slave to the Traffic Light" and the like - experienced stoned bliss during most songs, as crushing crescendos continued to form gradually and deliberately and then collapse into multiple threads, only to congeal again as the next song. Less patient listeners may have grown bored during the quieter moments but the band never lost the attention - or active engagement - of the audience at this show.
Explosions in the Sky
At times they seemed to lean on the sheer sonic force of the music to convey emotion. Hopefully they'll continue to hone their chops and expand their vision in the years to come. Right now, Explosions in the Sky puts on a heartfelt, two-hour set of appealing instrumental rock, and there's more good news on the horizon. The band is scheduled to curate for the 2008 All Tomorrow's Parties music festival in the U.K. It bodes well that previous curators include The Dirty Three, Mogwai, Tortoise, The Mars Volta and Sonic Youth.
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