Patient and Purposeful
The Wilderness is not the kind of album you would expect from a group like Explosions in the Sky. With their rich history and commercial success, one imagines that their music leans toward the grandiose and opulent. While that may be true for their soundtracks (see the music behind “Friday Night Lights”) and some of their other mainstream ventures, the pieces they write for themselves are balanced, richly composed and polished. Simply put: they’re masterful.
The Wilderness does not attack the listener with an impenetrable wall of sound; it slowly unfurls an audible landscape in which we allow ourselves to reside (for an hour or so). The music, which gracefully builds toward the climax of the album, uses a combination of traditional instrumentation and musical innovation that instead of leaving us disoriented, brings forth appropriate and devastating emotional responses. For a group with no vocalist, Explosions in the Sky manages to convey a number of sentiments – all of them striking.
“Wilderness” is the first track. It evokes images of a mist-filled forest at dawn and ones of a beginning – any beginning. “Wilderness” is the best possible way to start the album, as it leads us by the hand into the richness that Explosions in the Sky manages to create with their unique sound. We are swept into “The Ecstatics” next, and though the name is a bit alarming, there is no evidence of chaos in the second track. Any excitement in the song has a foundation that was clearly laid purposefully, keeping the listener squarely in Explosion’s carefully composed soundscape. Throughout “Tangle Formations” and “Logic Of A Dream” (the next two tracks), we can feel the music begin to swell and churn. This movement comes to a head in “Disintegration Anxiety,” the fifth song – and climax – of the album.
“Disintegration Anxiety” (whose name brings to mind The Cure’s gorgeous 1989 album) is an anthem that utilizes soundlessness in ways other pieces cannot. There is a sense that the song allows and tolerates silence, which makes for a more beautiful experience while listening. “Disintegration Anxiety” is by far the most active track on the album, but it is also the most balanced.
“Infinite Orbit,” “Colors in Space,” and “Landing Cliffs” bring us back to ourselves sweetly. We aren’t left with a sense of loss after listening – the aftermath is a simple, unblemished calm. Explosions in the Sky have succeeded with this album. It is a cohesive, well-curated set of songs that allow us to live within them. The Wilderness is not only worth a listen – it is worth losing yourself in.