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Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Explosions In The Sky Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Released 15 April 2011

Explosions In The Sky,
John Congleton
Label Bella Union
Length 56:44
Genre Post rock
Website www.explosionsinthesky.com

When Post-Rock quietly burst upon the music scene in the early to mid nineties with bands like Slint and Mogwai, it was a breath of fresh air and an alternative to the verse chorus verse structure that had straitjacketed rock music. Looking on a decade and a half later it hasn’t really done what it had threatened to do in the first place-to blow Rock music apart. It is, as a genre, sedate as traditional Rock in challenging its limitations but all the more comfortable in the knowledge that its strong points still pack a punch. Of course it’s unfair to bunch bands together but in the interest of argument, are Explosions in the Sky on their sixth album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care reflective of the static nature of the genre overall or are they thrashing out a new found sound?

Starting out in 1999, an era earmarked by musical heights by such alternative trailblazers like Mogwai and GY!BE, the Texan multi-instrumentalists garnered critical acclaim with their first few albums especially 2003’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place and went on to become mainstays in many an atmospheric Hollywood soundtrack. Four years on from their last album what has changed? To be honest not a whole deal. The intricate guitar textures and pounding drums work their way from a hushed silence to a violent storm on their mini symphonies as usual. All that is good and great about them is still there. It is nearly like an administrative exercise going through the tracks waiting for the tried and trusted elements to reveal themselves. In saying this, nothing is wrong with the album as such- it’s a beautiful roar in the midst of so much mediocrity in music these days.

Opening with the majestic swirl of 'Last Known Surroundings', that trademark crisp multi tremolo sound echoing over itself is so familiar, it soothes like a favourite blanket from childhood. The scream of the beginning is replaced by the quiet bit in the middle and then on to the crescendo. This is no join the dots formula of course, when done well like here it can be ecstatic and exhilarating. The soaring beauty of the rush of guitars and massive drums are never melancholic but celestial in their delivery.

The second track 'Human Qualities' opens with whisperings of folk guitar and is like a lullaby in its embryonic moments. As it layers in multiple guitars and fragile tapping percussion, a fog horn like sound repeats through the middle of the piece. But as night follows day, wait a while and the climax will come, this time in the shape of a chord variation on an old favourite 'Your Hand Is Mine' which builds to an all too predictable sonic thrash out. You’ve heard it all before but what harm? At least it’s the sort of repetition that can sound superior unlike, say, a tedious Noel Gallagher rhyming couplet.

'Trembling Hands' does depart from the norm, if only in a minor way. It is one of the only times that vocals or samples are heard on an Explosions... record. The low chant of ‘oh’ loops throughout over a more conventional indie rock rhythm. Indeed the track seems to be calling out for someone to sing over it. I don’t need to explain what happens near the end of the piece, I’ll let you guess.

Once more a paternal/lullaby element seeps into the music on Be Comfortable Creature'. A crystal clear guitar evolves into a sort of flute like drone more in keeping with Stravinsky than some bearded noiseniks. The bass of Michael James rumbles along ever playing progressive scales waiting for the inevitable reach for the ethereal. With all this heavy emphasis on crescendo, it’s a wonder these guys don’t go around with permanent nose bleeds.

The Texas skyline must be a glorious sight. The guitars on 'Postcards from 1952' almost sound like warm gliding light over a desert horizon. They sway gently over the thumping tom tom drum. It’s a beautifully relaxed and lazy sound in the best sense. Despite giving out about the endings, this is the most thrilling outro on the album as the guitars chime, effects panels explode and the drums spray all over the place in a frenzied fashion.

The closing piece 'Let Me Back In'  has a looped ghostly vocal sample over a funkier groove than usual. You can nearly imagining dancing to this, well tapping you feet rather than nodding your head in appreciation. The guitars still shimmer but they are less inclined to build in layers than to search out a formed pattern. Another interesting change at the end is a sample of what sounds like prayers being looped.

Overall the album is quite predictable but this is not a bad thing at all. Who cares if Explosions In The Sky are going nowhere fast? They may be in a stationary place but what a place to be when they produce such euphoric sounds for the heart and the mind.

- Tim Gannon