Published Mar 30, 2016Over the past decade, Explosions in the Sky have consistently crafted music resembling an Americanized, "get to the point" version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, all triumphant crescendos but no field recordings or dissonant veering. The band's triumphant, monolithic rockers led to a series of acclaimed records, the soundtrack to Friday Night Lights, and plenty of other appearances in the backgrounds of films, TV episodes and video games.
Since their last LP, 2011's Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, Explosions have worked on several more film soundtracks, and their experiences with shorter compositions have resulted in The Wilderness, their seventh proper record and first with an outside producer (the prolific, eccentric John Congleton). Featuring the band's shortest material to date, tracks on The Wilderness eschew post-rock's typical "quiet-loud-quiet" structure, instead opting to follow less predictable patterns than their earlier works. The introduction of electronic elements and faster drum work from Chris Hrasky results in jittery, urgent tracks, as on lead single and standout "Disintegration Anxiety."
But whereas the band excelled when dealing with long payoffs, there are too many moments on The Wilderness that lack focus or momentum to keep listeners hooked. While krautrock dabbling on "Logic of a Dream" and "Colors in Space," or the syncopated 6/8 groove of "Tangle Formations" provide some of the album's best moments, they are sandwiched between formless, ambient noodling that quells the energy.
Though wholly pleasant to listen to, The Wilderness occasionally dips into background music territory. And while it features some of Explosions' most exploratory music to date, the record is dragged down by passages that, despite the astro-nautical theme of the track titles, occasionally fail to reach the stratospheric heights Explosions are known for. (Temporary Residence)