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ARCHIVES | 2004 | MAIN STAGE | EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY


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Biography

Searching for 'Explosions In The Sky' on the Internet, you will find Afghanistan, Irak, Vietnam, fireballs, gamma rays. But also a rock band from Austin, Texas. It seems that 4 July 1999 saw the birth of this quatuor -bass, drums and two guitars. That day -let's better say that night- the personalities and the ideas of the members began to blend and a name came out of it while looking at the fireworks of the National Day : "Explosions In The Sky".

Of course it all began earlier on, in 1993, when Munaf, Mark and Mike met. Originally based in Midland (West Texas) they all moved to Austin at different moments and for different reasons. At the beginning of 1999 the last lad, Chris, who didn't know the three others, put some announcement in a cd shop:  'Wanted: Sad, Triumphant Rock Band'. Meeting, rehearsals, first concerts.

In January 2000 they record their first album 'How Strange, Innocence' on which power and emotions are already present and which gives us the extent of their real talent. It is quite weird that this album wasn't immediately released on a label and has never been distributed as such (even though it's been rereleased later on yet quickly out of stock).

 

 

Later on, American Analog Set -on its own initiative- gives a tape of the band, recorded live, to Jeremy DeVine, the boss of Temporary Residence Records (Fridge, Sonna, Tarentel...). After having listened to it, he commented (quoting): 'this totally fucking destroys'. Useless to say here that the band was immediately invited to sign on the label.

An album is hence released, the real first one then, 'Those who tell the truth shall die, those who tell the truth shall live forever' where melancholy, rage and noise mix together on 6 tracks. The at first loud and melodic guitars grow up finally to a wall of sound, showing us how to grow from complete silence to total violence...

 

 

A long tour in the U.S.A. follows, appearing with Trail Of Dead, Fugazi, Engine Down, Tarentel... A funny incident happened in Amsterdam airport while they were coming back from a recording session for the Dutch radio VPRO: they almost couldn't get into the plane because of... a sticker on one of their guitars! This sticker said 'this plane will crash tomorrow', something that worried the security manager who saw some terrorist message in it.

A bit less than one year later they begin their first European tour, leaving some wonderful memories at our neighbours from the Bear Rock (Andenne) for their first Belgian date. Since then they haven't stopped touring (USA, Japan...) unless to record the second album 'This Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place', heartly welcomed by the press.

Their phenomenal European tour (almost three months non-stop!) will stop for one night at the Rhâââ Lovely Festival for a new gig in the region that we hope will be... explosive!

 

Discography

-) 2000 : 'How Strange Innocence'.

The Austin Chronicle's point of view :
[...] The songs and instrumental interactions are both remarkably complex and developed for a band that's only been together approximately a year. How Strange, Innocence takes a set of familiar sounds and structures that in some hands might come off as pretentious and self-indulgent, and works them into a well-executed series of original, euphonious tunes. Over and over, the group builds up layers of guitar and effects into intense mounds of sonic interplay and then, suddenly, topples them in on themselves, leaving the fragmented melodies reeling in the cloudy absence. "Snow and Lights" exists through this progression, and "Magic Hours" adds to it an uncharacteristically driving and brutal drum part. "Remember Me as a Time of Day," the song from the KVRX compilation, is here as well. How Strange, Innocence was recorded at the Bubble, the South Austin studio of local superstars Sixteen Deluxe, whose Steven T. Hall acts as producer here, and because Explosions in the Sky don't dwell in the mopery and trance-inducing repetition that's characteristic of this style of rock music, this tightly fleshed and dynamic album is a truly commendable first effort.

Site.

 

-) 2001 : 'Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever' on Temporary Residence Limited.

Pitchfork Media's point of view :
[...] Explosions In The Sky have elucidated these prevalent truths for me through their epic instrumental lamentations. Though the band are hardly the first iconoclasts of the revered "verse-chorus-verse" formula, theirs is a music of possibility like few others have dared to make. On their debut album, How Strange, Innocence, they brandished a sort of restraint that often teased listeners with visions of the group's capability were they only to let loose. The band name implies scorching collages of noise, yet most of their crescendos end in plucked strings and comforting, ambient gauze.
On their sophomore effort, the contradictorily titled Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, the group has recanted on their more unexcitable tendencies, opting to infuse their work with a formerly unseen rawness and intensity. And even if it's not a didactic analysis of what constitutes "music" (such as the Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage), it certainly makes for a revelatory listen.
"Greet Death" opens the album innocuously enough with inaudible strumming that surfaces just long enough to be devastated by seething drums and scathing, distorted guitars. Such previously foreign abrasiveness is an immediate indicator that Explosions have rewritten their aesthetic principles while leaving their ability to wield a stark melody virtually unimpaired. As the dust clears and the sonic damage is assessed, the remaining feedback segues into a sober slide guitar, denoting a major transition in the song's emotional appeal. The track ends as a burgeoning riff of apocalyptic proportions is suddenly and unexpectedly smeared across the audio spectrum with digital effects.
These structural inversions are a primary signifier of Those Who Tell the Truth's sound. Arrangements are introduced and then dismantled, as though they're vying with one another for the listener's attention. Mogwai's Young Team is an obvious reference point; both records feature similar instrumentation and soft/loud dynamics. But where Young Team was content to methodically construct its walls of jarring white noise, Those Who Tell the Truth builds more erratically and, upon first listen, illogically. But with every subsequent listen, the internal organization of each song becomes more inviting.
Ambiguity seems to be one of the disc's greater appeals. Depending upon your mood, the album can document good versus evil, existential insignificance versus blissful ignorance, war versus peace, or whatever other contrasting forces best suit your life at the moment. Where so many lyricists fail in exacting the perfect sentiment, Explosions In The Sky have crafted a record comprised solely of ever-changing blanks to be filled in. And though each of these tracks supposedly tells stories, one needs only draw upon their own life to understand the pathos explored. May these songs become a soundtrack to your vanity.

Site.

Matamore's point of view :
Explosions in the Sky strike like some thunderbolt. They mix atmospheric and imposing post-rock à la Mogwai and GY!BE with a hint of punch and immediate freshness taken from indie bands like Seam, Mineral or Appleseed Cast. [...] The big deal here is their ability to introduce spontaneaty, immediate emotions and punch in a spacy post-rock sometimes a bit too mannered.

Didier - site.

 

-) 2003 : 'This Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place' on Temporary Residence Limited / Bella Union.

Delusions Of Adequacy's point of view :
A disclaimer first: This type of music is not for everyone. Those who spent their childhoods weaned on sugar cereals and television need not apply. If you have the attention span of a cockroach Explosions in the Sky's 45-minute five-track CD may not be your thing. If you cringe at the mention of instrumental post-rock and bands like Mogwai, Mono, and Godspeed You Black Emperor, don't waste your time.
But for those of you that are reading further, you may just have the moxie, to absolutely fall in love with what Explosions in the Sky got going on. It's the kind of music that if you give a little attention, the music pays back tenfold. The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place is a bit like going out into the country at night, and just staring at the stars pondering the bigness of it all. If you live in the city, then it's a bit like going to a planetarium all fucked up and eating brownies. Either way, one could easily classify both as transcendent experiences.
Explosion's brand of epic rock seems suited for just such occasions. Generally each song (really the wrong word, piece or movement are more appropriate tags for each track) begins sparse and spacey, building gradually, with more layers of interweaving guitars and bass lines thrown in for good measure, and the band reaches into its bag of tricks and pull out more than a few polyphonic melodies. This all develops and crescendos to a stunning melodic climax, as with the varied, dense and ultimately sublime “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean.”
At times the music is quiet and tranquil so conducive to background music, but then with a well-executed crescendo, all of the past few minutes musical exploration break through and mesh into a carefully crafted and beautifully dense wall of sound.
Truly and intently paying attention to “Your Hand in Mine” will cause chills, of wonder and delight. The song manages to evoke initial feelings of subdued depression and smash them against the songs eventual joyful resolution. With some guitar plucks and stuttering drums, the group is able to be more emotionally resonant and inspired than most other bands' yelping front men can.
So if you have the patience, Explosions in the Sky is waiting for you. You'll be satisfied to know that your patience will be greatly rewarded.

Dan - site.

Almost Cool's point of view :
[...] Instead of blasting into huge walls of sound, the group finds themselves content to move along a more sustained middle ground, with only a few peaks and a few valleys. It's a heck of a difficult tightrope to walk, because of all the bands that have come before and all the soft-loud moments that have come before, but when they do reach the louder moments (even though they're not as loud as their previous release), it makes them even better.
While there are only 5 tracks on the release, they average almost 9 minutes apiece and EITS has once again found a way to maximize even the quieter parts. "Memorial" opens the disc with gorgeous delayed guitar that eventually intertwines with another guitar melody as they both soar higher and higher while a simple bassline barely keeps things grounded as the drums swell and burst behind it all. "The Only Moment We Were Alone" follows directly, again building up with warm ringing guitar melodies and almost marching drums. Once again, the track really doesn't have a particular structure, and even the rises and falls don't adhere to a strict formula, instead just playing out while managing to feel neither hurried nor dragging.
If anything can be said about the relentlessy-touring band, it's that they have worked their songs into such a fine groove by the time that they record them that they know just where to add in places and just where to trim things a bit. I saw the group well over a year ago in concert and they were already introducing songs that would be on this release, just as they're probably playing new things now that will make it onto their next effort. If you were one of the people that enjoyed their last release for the rock-out moments, you may find the new album just a touch softer than you expected (although the end of "Memorial" should find any fan in search of rock blasted backwards), but for everyone else this effort will more than live up to expectations. There are a lot of groups out there doing this sort of music, but not very many doing it this well.

Site.

 

Audio

-) Live concert on Transmission3000.
-) Memorial.

 

Web

-) Official website.
-) Temporary Residence Limited.