Explosions in the Sky
The Wilderness (Temporary Residence Ltd.)
Reviewed by Libby Webster, Fri., April 8, 2016
The Wilderness opens quietly, like early morning light, a mother's gentle hand rocking you awake in a childhood bedroom – sleepy, muffled first moments that are new but somehow familiar. Austin's Explosions in the Sky have mastered that feeling dozens of times over across their 17-year career. Tapping into visceral moments of humanity through cinematic instrumentals, the local quartet has spent its vaunted discography constructing expansive, emotional soundscapes. Their seventh album is no different: textured, ornate, and somehow seeping into the deepest parts of you. Notch it as the best Explosions in the Sky album since their previous high-water mark, 2003's The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place.
Despite a more meditative and succinct approach to storytelling – the longest track clocks in at just over seven minutes – The Wilderness affirms that no one else knows how to build a song like EITS. "Logic of a Dream" unfurls with an unpredictable trajectory, encompassing both a frightening, dark cacophony and the sweet relief that comes after trauma has passed. "Disintegration Anxiety" comes on like a panic attack, while "Losing the Light" is a spacey, meandering sprawl, the sound of bleeding out. Breaking through after two-and-a-half minutes of uneasiness, "Tangle Formations" becomes a triumphant cadence. Along with a pervasive uncertainty endemic to all the group's work, there's trademark hopefulness strung throughout, fighting to prevail.
Poetic song titles always anchor the work in a tangible place, guiding the narrative unfolding in their instrumental excursions, like earlier works "First Breath After Coma" and "Your Hand in Mine." Here, Explosions in the Sky don't yearn to be anchored at all, instead building their sound in an atmospheric, galactic place – unexplored terrain, a wilderness indeed.