Explosions in the Sky will always have a special place in my heart. "The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place" introduced me to instrumental post-rock, and remains a gem of the genre. This Austin-based group has the capacity to make truly emotionally stirring instrumentals, and they can move me with a guitar riff the way few can with lyrics.
Their latest studio release, "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone" is simply the next step in the maturation of the relatively unique sound of this band. The elements that made "The Earth..." so great are still here, and in droves. The guitars remain the protagonisits, with Munaf Rayani, Mark Smith, and Michael James at the helm. The melody is rarely held by a single instrument, and rarely, if ever, reaches into the territory of a solo. Often, all three will play distinct parts, with varied rhythms, that somehow manage to coalesce into a cohesive whole. Reaching, dreamy riffs that bend and collapse into themselves, often dueling between the right and left channels, serve as a propellant into reflective, sparse arrangements that ache with the energy that served to reach that plateau. Much of the intense energy found in their music can be attributed to the phenomenal drum work of Chris Hrasky. He seems to have an innate gift for knowing how to fill the entire work with a sense of longing, and yet having. Also, new to the Explosions sound, is the addition of piano work on the latter half of the record. I was taken a bit aback at first, but on several listens, the work would be incomplete without it.
The production is sparse, yet highly adequate. The record was produced by John Congleton, who is know for his lo-fi work, yet the album still twitches with atmosphere not present in his other work. The sound is simple, almost unadulterated save for the effect pedals, with no apparent studio sheen. He does exactly what I would hope a man producing EITS would do, and that is get out of the way and let their music speak for itself. In that, his work in this record is a complete success.
To those who write this off as being stagnant, and having a lack of innovation, I say so what? If Explosions had re-invented themselves and made anything else, I for one would have been inconsolably disappointed. This stands as a work on its own, not to be judged in relationships to the band's previous work. Explosions newcomers and long-time fans alike will both appreciate this record; the band following a similar formula as they have in the past does not make this music any less beautiful, heartbreaking, and uplifting.
I imagine it must be difficult for the band to come up with titles for their tracks and records, but they always somehow manage to be meaningful without sounding trite. The titles fit the mood superlatively, yet are deceptively melancholy. One might read the album and track titles and mistake this as a sad-core record, which couldn't be further from the truth. This is an album filled with hope, longing and beauty. True, it may be born out of melancholy, but that only serves as the foundation for a tower of hope. This could almost be a novella, beginning with the crashing first moments of "The Birth and Death of the Day," meandering through various heights and depths, and emerging triumphant with "So Long, Lonesome." Even the album title mixes joy with loneliness, assuming that there is an event that, in an instant, transfigures the mind, and makes one long for things familiar. At its best moments, this music has the capability to do exactly that.