Explosions in the Sky are possibly at that juncture in their career where they might be questioning ‘where to now?’ for their next album. After six studio albums and a handful of film soundtracks, the instrumental group need to both assuage their fans and keep detractors at bay. Yet, the Texan four-piece have always been one of the more intelligent of the ‘post-rock’ bunch, never drifting too far into complacency or re-treading old ground. They are adept at consistently creating layered and dynamic music rich in emotion and melody and on their sixth album, The Wilderness, they sound as vital as ever. The guitars are still to the foreground but sinister pianos now tinkle in the background and odd, slightly unsettling sonic detours are taken.
It translates wonderfully in a live context, which is fortunate for them as the bulk of the new album is played to a spellbound Vicar Street crowd. There is little chatter, just a polite intro and thank you at the end. Starting with ‘Losing the Light’ from the new album, it sets the tone for an evening where an understated moody ambience sits alongside the requisite slabs of noise. It’s testament to the band that both elements work so well, resulting in a performance that rarely lags or fails to hold your attention.
‘Infinite Orbit’ ascends to a plateau of rich guitar interplay atop an insistent drum-beat but it quickly segues into the brilliant ‘Tangle Formations’, the standout track from The Wilderness. It’s a breath-taking display of musicianship that shows how strong the new songs are, all slightly less reliant on the loud/quiet template of post-rock. Yet, when do they trot out older tracks it’s a reminder of how astonishing a calling card their breakthrough 2003 debut album The Earth Is A Cold Dead Place was.
From it, ‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’ evinces an undulating raw power that is still something to behold. They play for a succinct 80 minutes without an encore, ending with ‘Memorial’. This was a short, sharp shock of a show that both satiated the faithful and yet left us wanting more. Astonishing.
Explosions in the Sky photographed by Kieran Frost.