The Austin Chronicle

Spotlight: Explosions in the Sky

Ruta Maya, 1am

By Michael Chamy, March 16, 2001, Music

The bassist swayed back and forth, coiled dangerously like a snake, as the graceful, hypnotic strains suddenly turned sinister. Without warning, he began assaulting his instrument, and the guitarist to his left fell as if stricken by the hand of God, spasmodically grinding axe and body into the ground while wreaking aural mayhem. The packed patio at the Red Eyed Fly was experiencing the full impact of Explosions in the Sky.

"I'm sure I look like a complete idiot, but I get so into it I don't even care when I'm up there," says Michael James, bassist for the Austin instrumental quartet.

"What's the point of being in a band if it's not gonna take you over?" says guitarist Mark Smith.

Maybe it stems from their background in the sleepy West Texas town of Midland, where the battle against boredom is perpetual, or maybe it's the chemistry spawned from their long-standing friendship, but this quartet of local twentysomethings infuse their music with a range of color and emotion many of today's vaunted instrumentalists only aspire to.

"When we write songs, we try and come up with an image or story line," says drummer Chris Hrasky of dreary Rockford, Ill., who joined the trio of ex-Midland jam buddies (Smith, James, and guitarist Munaf Rayani) in early 1999.

Painting in the vivid brushstrokes of über-instrumentalists Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Explosions in the Sky features the intense dynamic shifts of the former and cinematic panache of the latter. The energy radiating from the stage recalls no less than Austin's ultimate rock destructionists, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.

The band's heavy side lay dormant on last year's formative How Strange, Innocence, but then progress began driving them through sonic barriers only clawed at before, drawing the attention of Baltimore indie label Temporary Residence. They recorded the dazzling Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever in Washington, D.C., last year, and continue to shine onstage as they anticipate the album's August release.

"That's the secret with instrumental music, keeping it interesting," says James. "We don't want people to get bored, so we go with as many ranges as we can."

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