27 04 2011

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Explosions in the Sky
7 out of 10 

Return of the crescendo

by Jericho Cerrona
April 27, 2011

The term “post-rock” has gotten quite the workout over the past decade. Though early 90’s bands such as Slint and Talk Talk may have helped to spawn the genre, it wasn’t until the early 2000’s with the likes of Mogwai, Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor that this particular style seemed to really take off. Explosions in the Sky’s The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003) was a seminal artistic post-rock statement (even though the band themselves have always voiced a disdain with the label), pushing the genre out of the underground and into mainstream circles. It was a beautifully cathartic listen, more accessible than one would expect from melodically atmospheric compositions sans vocals. But the band really hit the stratosphere with their contributions to the soundtrack for the film Friday Night Lights in 2004. Suddenly, fist-pumping frat boys and mainstream music fans were falling all over this kind of stuff, leaving the band in a very curious position.

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is the Texas-based quartet’s sixth LP, and likely won’t disappoint the group’s faithful admirers. Though it may lack some of the awe-inspiring grandeur of their early output, it is still a modulated and carefully crafted piece of work. After the success of the Friday Night Lights soundtrack, Explosions In The Sky became more popular than any one would have expected given their musical style; a mixture of elaborate guitars slowly building into a near orgasmic crescendo of noise and swirling drum fills. The soft/loud dynamic that characterizes their work can certainly become repetitive, though perhaps the point of this type of music isn’t to analyze it too much, but rather to allow the sweeping compositions the freedom to move through the subconscious as a sequence of experiences. Certainly, when most people talk about Explosions in The Sky, it is usually within the context of how the music makes them feel, rather than a discussion about the actual instrumentation itself.

Opener “Last Known Surroundings” starts things off in predictable style, with melodically interweaving guitar and intensely marching drums heading towards a climax. Most interesting here is the inclusion of string loops and spacey pedal effects, making the song a little more hallucinatory than anything they have attempted before. The album’s crowning jewel, “Postcards from 1952”, meanwhile, includes a heady collision of piano, dueling guitars and Chris Hrasky’s thunderous drumming. By the time the song reaches it’s ear-shattering peak, a feeling of emotional release and musical ecstasy is palpable. Additionally, the band throws a slight curve ball with “Trembling Hands”, an up-tempo ambient rocker complete with a rare instance of background vocal chants and a sense of urgent forward momentum that surges throughout from start to finish. Here the band proves that they don’t have to rely solely on the slow-crawling cinematic opuses that they have become known for.

Still, there are moments where the repetitive songwriting becomes hard to dismiss. “Be Comfortable Creature” is certainly a delicately pretty tune, but at nearly 9-minutes, the overwhelming sense of musical déjà vu might put some listeners to sleep. Likewise, “Human Qualities” feels a bit too ethereal for its own good, as the trademark airy guitar melodies build much too predictably for the song to distinguish itself from the rest of the album. Closer “Let Me Back In” likewise has some interesting elements; ghostly whispers, twangy guitars, subdued drumming, but the song ultimately fails to really evolve.

Explosions In The Sky are often criticized for repeating themselves, but this is at least a partial misunderstanding of what they are trying to do musically. The repetition is intentional; they are creating emotional atmosphere, a series of slow buildups to ecstatic climaxes that are successful simply because of the feelings they inevitably invoke. Put simply, those who enjoy the band will like this album, but those who have always found this kind of sound somewhat boring wont likely be converted. Take Care, Take Care, Take Care has enough poetically grand moments to qualify it as a solid entry into the band’s already impressive discography, and while its almost unabashedly derivative of what came before, they still do this particular brand of music extremely well.

“Postcard from 1952″ by Explosions in the Sky

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