Released 1st April 2016 via Temporary Residence Limited
Featured in everything from Friday Night Lights to Welcome to Night Vale, Explosions in the Sky are most well-known for having their music used in TV and film, and their soundtrack work. It’s been almost five years since the release of their last studio album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, but Explosions in the Sky have definitely not lost their touch.
The Wilderness has a very subtle electronic feel to it, with quiet, complimentary synths all throughout the album—and unusually, this adds to the feel rather than distracts from it. Not that this is entirely a ‘usual’ Explosions album. Rather than the massive, booming, driving anthems of previous albums, like Postcards from 1952, which present a sort of huge open musical landscape, The Wilderness seems to represent more a quiet, introspective and meditative scene. Even the album’s ‘climax’ track, ‘Disintegration Anxiety’, with its crunchy drums and fast riffs, lacks the usual dramatic, explosive climax.
This isn’t to say the album is an ambient one—there are plenty of faster, more upbeat sections, notably in ‘Infinite Orbit’, which unusually for this album opens with a fast drumbeat, and quickly builds up. Many of the other tracks also have upbeat moments, but the general feel of the album is one of solitude and quietness.
Furthermore, none of this is to say that the album is bad, and their departure (if only temporary) from their usual shtick is to be mourned—it shows that the band can subtly change their style and still maintain a very unique, very well held-together sound—that very few other post-rock bands have been able to replicate over the years.
Perhaps it is because of their association with uplifting, driving pieces for TV and film that Explosions in the Sky have tried to go in a different direction with The Wilderness. Since Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, they have made two soundtrack albums, and so perhaps this departure from their norm allowed the band to refresh their writing and create some truly beautiful music.
My only gripe with the album is that sometimes there is very little ‘flow’ between the pieces. For example, between ‘Losing the Light’ and ‘Infinite Orbit’, there is just a couple of seconds of silence before the fast drumbeat comes in. If there was more continuity it would help ‘smooth out’ the feel of the album.