Going Off

Explosions in the Sky's illustrious groundswells

For a while there, if you wanted to bathe your ears in some truly orgasmic instrumental post-rock, you couldn't do much better than Scotland's Mogwai. Take its epic, 16-minute "Mogwai Fear Satan," for example. The opening guitar line repeats portentously, creating a roiling ocean of sound joined by frenetic drum fills and all sorts of distortion. The track bursts into a sonic squall, falls away to a haunting flute melody, then erupts again before gradually riding out in a stunning coda.

But Mogwai's tunes have become shorter, more vocal-laden, and more conventional in recent years. Meanwhile, numerous other bands have forged careers inspired by those early exploits, perhaps none more thrillingly so than the Austin, Texas, quartet Explosions in the Sky. Formed in 1999, EITS moved from the indie-rock fringes to something resembling mainstream recognition by providing music for the lauded 2004 film Friday Night Lights. The movie was a Texas high school football saga in which the band's atmospheric, deeply affecting soundscapes complemented and intensified the gridiron gravitas.

Explosions in the Sky: lofty rock.
Dianne Jones
Explosions in the Sky: lofty rock.

In February, Explosions released dark, stirring compositions separate from the silver screen — the group's fourth album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. On the new disc, EITS continue to showcase a mastery of dynamics that displays a shoegazer's fondness for crescendo-enhancing effects and plenty of sublime musical moments. Among them, the rapturous guitarstorm of an opener "The Birth and Death of the Day," which instantly lifts you into the clouds. Gorgeous echoes also float through the 13-minute "It's Natural to Be Afraid," and a cascading grand piano bisects the ambient drones of "What Do You Go Home To?" In both their elegant buildups and atomic resolutions, Explosions create beauty with emotional heft, forging stories that words would only dilute.

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