25 Jun 2015

CULT CLASSIC ALBUMS #2 - Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place



A tear rolls my eye, maybe 3 minutes into album opener First Breath After Coma; the gentle chimes of post-rock guitar soundscapes slowly overcome you, as if they're rising up from a deep sadness. The entirely instrumental 9 minute-long opener is an evocative beginning to the album, and is every bit as poetically beautiful as you'd imagine taking your first breath after a coma to be.

First Breath After A Coma is the first of five songs, or movements even, from Texas four-piece Explosions in the Sky's third album The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place (released 2003), which I'd say, if pushed, was the single most beautiful work of the 21st century. 5 songs; all clocking in around 10 minutes each; this record is outstanding, and it's a relatively accessible entrance point for anyone to get into the post-rock genre on the whole.

The band have their own real distinctive feel - it's entirely guitar driven, and the guitars are played in such a way that it will generall knock you dead. Quiet, noodly bits sound glacial and dreamy during the quiet bits, and then the climatic build ups arise, and sound so beautiful that it's really quite tear jerking. A lot of the album does genuinely consist of quiet bit-loud bit-quiet bit, but ultimately this structure is so flawlessly executed that you'd do better to find a more emotionally compelling record.

The album's said by some to be a concept album - hmmm? It lacks any lyrics at all - and I can kind of see where people with that view are coming from. The album (for me, it's instrumental, so it depends how you read the music) has a uniting message to it, present throughout - as the title suggests, THE EARTH IS NOT A COLD DEAD PLACE. There is hope. Humanity can get itself back on track. It's not all shit. And this record proves it.

The Only Moment We Were Alone's 3 or 4 minutes of outro are absolutely perfect; you think it's ended, before EITS play the same motif a couple of times, and then you're immediately, again, overcome with colourful bursts of sound that are really the most incredible, exhilarating pieces of guitar music I've ever heard. With art like this, the Earth is a vibrant, beautiful place you just want to stay forever. The chiming euphoria of Explosions In The Sky is pretty much the most incredible sound a four-piece guitar band can make, and it's no use trying to put it into words if you've never heard it before, but, well, after living with this record a year I can safely say nothing evokes feelings of hope, and feelings that there's a higher more powerful being out there, and I guess if music can do that to someone like me, it must be powerful.

This is the zenith of a great band's career, and whilst its sound continues to be hard to pen down in a few words, I guess the best way to explain is that they really do sound like their name suggests. They're a band that make music safely in the confines of the post-rock genre, but they're more accessible than Godspeed You! Black Emperor, more dreamy and entrancing than Mogwai, and - whilst their songs are structurally very formulaic - one of the greatest, most original bands to make loud noises this side of the turn of the century. And if you're saying it didn't leave you breathless, and emotionally drained first time you heard it, you're lying.

(WRITTEN BY CALUM CASHIN)