Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20: Explosions In The Sky, "First Breath After Coma"

Artist: Explosions In The Sky
Song: "First Breath After Coma"
Album: The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
Year: 2003

Though many may try and argue against the idea, when one looks at the music scene that dominated much of the 2000’s musical mainstream, it is impossible to deny the fact that it was largely filled with overly artificial, uninspiring artists.  Perhaps due to new recording technologies that made “legitimate” talent a secondary concern; or perhaps due to the fact that the music industry was clearly far more concerned with “sellable” artists than talented ones, these years represent some of the darkest in the entire history of music.  Yet it is often during periods such as this where some of the most stunning and outright original sounds can be birthed, and this was certainly the case when one looked into the “underground” music scenes across the globe.  Taking advantage of the accessibility provided by the internet, as well as being able to press their own music onto CD-R’s, few groups brought a more exiting or original sound that the Texas-based quartet, Explosions In The Sky.  As an instrumental-based group finding themselves somewhere between avant-jazz and hard rock, Explosions In The Sky quickly made themselves known for breathtaking live performances, the quartet compose brilliant musical narratives on their studio releases, pushing their instruments into never before explored territory.  It is due to their lack of lyrics, and outright stunning instrumental creations that make them completely unlike any other band in recent history, and having released four fantastic records over the past decade, their magnificent 2003 release, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, stands as their finest work thus far.  Though the record is perfect from end to end, it is the albums' opening track, "First Breath After Coma," that captures the perfection of the band in every way.

Across each of the bands’ releases, the music of Explosions In The Sky is rarely anything less than a fantastic, completely captivating sonic journey, with each song leading perfectly into the next.  Using only their basic instruments, and occasionally a sound effect here and there, the sonic landscape that the band creates on each song and album redefines what can be done within the rock and roll paradigm.  Though many may have pre-conceived notions about “instrumental rock,” there is an edge and tone running throughout this entire record that can easily win over even the most staunch of critics.  It is the fact that there is so much energy and emotion running throughout each track, and even without lyrics, the song titles give the album a clear concept, and the music fits the titles without question. On The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, the concept seems to be one of love, longing, and loss, and these themes can be felt in the way that each musician plays his instrument.  The talent of the four musicians is so outstanding that this idea comes across clearly without a word being spoken, and guitarist Munaf Rayani has also been quoted saying that the album was the bands, "attempt at love songs." On both ends of the album, the guitar work manages to come across as powerful, yet undeniably heartbreaking simultaneously. It is this ability to transcend words that makes the music of Explosions In The Sky so awe-inspiring, and makes each of their albums a refreshing shock to the system with each and every listening.

The core of the music of Explosions In The Sky revolves around the guitar pairing of Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani, and whether it is a lulling, melancholy progression, or a series of forceful, crushing chords, the duo are able to create some of the most intense and “lyrical” compositions in all of music history.  All across this album, their sound does nothing short of creating lyrics through their phenomenal playing, and this in itself is a testament to their exceptional level of talent.  Furthermore, the ways in which the guitar work translates into moods and words throughout all of "First Breath After Coma" is nothing short of spectacular, and it is the main reason why this song becomes so uniquely mesmerizing. Drummer Chris Hrasky is equally as brilliant, easily able to work the kit in soft, subtle ways as masterfully as he can knock out a full on, rock and roll breakdown. Bassist Michael James holds his own with the band, providing the extra punch that makes the sound of the band far more enthralling and full to the point that it becomes pure sonic beauty.  It is the way that the sound starts off in a more mellow, almost unassuming manner that becomes so enjoyable.  As the song progresses, the tension builds to an almost overwhelming level, and it is the manner with which the band crashes through in the middle section, letting the tension not only release, but create entirely new waves and moods that makes this such an impressive musical work to experience.

While there were a handful of bands in the early part of the 2000’s that seemed to have no interest in going anywhere near the mainstream sound, most of these bands were simply staying in the “standard” rock format.  Yet there were a few groups that decided to attempt and make their name as an instrumental rock band, and this sort of approach and configuration had not been heard in decades.  It is the overall impact of the music of groups like Explosions In The Sky that prove that in many cases, not only are words unnecessary, but they can often get in the way of the overall mood of a song.  With this in mind, for well over a decade, Explosions In The Sky have been completely rewriting the books on what is possible within music, and they stand as one of the most impressive and original bands of their generation.  Composing astonishingly beautiful and complex musical masterpieces, the group truly makes music unlike anything ever seen or heard. Forming dense musical soundscapes, the quartet masterfully paints vivid pictures with their music, conveying as much emotion and feeling as any "traditional" rock band. Transitioning from mellow, simple guitar work to swift waves of crushing percussion and chords, every song the band plays is truly a musical experience. Each of the four albums that Explosions In The Sky have released are well worth owning, but their 2003 release, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place stands above the others and is undoubtedly their musical masterpiece thus far in their career, and the albums' opening song, "First Breath After Coma," is without question the ideal summary of the bands' talents.

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