Having been five years since the release of Austin, Texas post-rock outfit, Explosions in the Sky’s last stand-alone album, many seamed to fear all they would ever get from the band anymore was independent movie soundtracks. There came some hope in the form of what was hopefully not an April Fool’s joke when the band announced a new album to be released on April first. Turns out it wasn’t, as the band dropped The Wilderness, a fantastic sound story made up of two separate dream sequences split by an awakening of sorts in the middle.
The first sequence appears to be told as a dreamer wanders through a dense wilderness. In this opening section of the album, there is a heavier focus upon synthesizer and its ability to influence the depth of sound. This makes these songs play out closer to a CFCF or Mogwai style of ambient music. However, guitar is still proficiently used in “The Ecstatics” in order to help convey a scene of all that is unfolding around the dreamer.
“Tangle Formations” uses dark-sounding keys, drums and distortion in order to convey a sense of the dreamer becoming entangled within the dream. With the arrival of this song and its hurried pace, it becomes apparent that the dream is coming to an end. It serves as the struggle before “Logic of a Dream” kicks in and provides the understanding our dreamer was searching for.
The previous song flows beautifully into album single and split point, “Disintegration Anxiety,” which awakens the dreamer to strife. This song is chaotically full of distortion and brooding sounds. However, in its later minutes the song becomes calm and composed. It is as if the dreamer has made it through a hectic day and has laid their head upon a pillow, ready again for another night of dreaming. There is a gentle pause before “Losing the Light” kicks in. This likely denotes the time it has taken our dreamer to fall asleep and enter the dream state. The later half of the album strips down a lot of the noise heard previously and brings in soft guitar and pedal modulation giving these songs a vast and open feeling.
“Colors in Space” is the absolute star of The Wilderness. It has rich tonal ranges and none of the distortion heard on previous parts of the album. I closed my eyes and for seven minutes imagined that I was flying in a rocket ship across space. It was almost as if I was looking out through my port window and seeing all these streaks of light and colour passing me by.
With The Wilderness, Explosions in the Sky have made a triumphant return! This is not the same band that left making music for themselves back in 2011 with Take Care Take Care Take Care. Rather it is a fresh series of dream sequences that remove the guitars a touch and let the synthesizers weave glorious ambiance.
Luke Williams grew up a fan of punk and pop punk in a field of cows just outside of Barrie, Ontario. You can follow him on Twitter @musicwithluke