This music is so fucking beautiful, I can hardly breathe. There is a moment at 5 minutes and 45 seconds into "The Moon Is Down" when the whole world collapses around me. This, their magnum opus, they did not play last night at Summerstage in Central Park. It rained and rained like the flood. Our feet, socks, shoes, ankles were wet. The sky was like a wet hood over our heads. Walking from the entrance at 72nd St. into Central Park, we walked through puddles, ran through pathways, soaked in the wetness of a June dusk. The band were animated, celebrating their tenth year together, four dudes from Texas. We stood around until we were too tired to stand.
Here is a review I wrote of a show in Brooklyn I saw in 2004:
None of their songs have words, each piece is roughly ten minutes long. There are only two electric guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum set. The music they produce is indescribably beautiful, passing through ebbs, flows, silence, pauses, crescendos, climaxes, and wordless guitar interplays that make (and made) my heart drop into the deep pit of my stomach. There are no chords in any of their music, only notes, clear pristine notes without a hint of tremelo, but with lots of echo. The notes circle around each other, going up, going down, sometimes just going around each other in a way that is absolutely obvious but you've never really heard before. The sounds of the silences come at you between the notes, the melodies breathtakingly beautiful and...also obvious but unheard.
They did not play very long, perhaps one hour or so but performed about six long pieces ending with "Memorial," another track off their new album. Unlike the other pieces, this wasn't drop dead melancholy but rather ponderous (in a good way) and in a way that may make you think of the word "behold." Behold what, I do not know. Just Behold. The song ended in a massed crescendo which was so fucking loud, that it made me feel the Earth, my heart, my lips, my blood, and the vibrating air in the spaces between my toes, so loud that the boys on stage were maniacally and unselfconsciously pummeling their instruments which such wanton abandon that at one point two of them--the two guys with the lead guitars--tripped over themselves and landed on their asses, still pummeling their guitars into outer space drone-noise ecstacy.
Explosions in the Sky are from Midland, Texas, apparently the hometown of the country's current President.
And another review I wrote after seeing them in 2005:
The one thing that struck me seeing them this second time was that it demands something of the audience in that you have to leave your expectations of a "normal" rock show behind. There are no typical musical cues (choruses, verses, climaxes, themes) that punctuate your time in neat segments. If you pay too much attention to the detail of the music (that guitar figure, this drum break) you lose sense of the beauty of the music. In one sense to truly appreciate their music, you have to abandon the rules of musical showmanship behind. Which I suppose is why some call them post-rock (although I hate that tag in general)... If you have ever felt sad in your life, even if for a short while... so sad that it dropped the heaviness in your chest deep into the pit of your stomach, you will probably be able to relate to this music. It is music deeply embedded in the essence of what makes us sad, and in knowing that what makes us utterly sad is often the exact same feeling that makes us exult and euphoric....
At the show, as far as I could tell, they ... omitted "Your Hand In Mine," the most obviously melancholy piece of their oeuvre, a move that in some sense was a relief to me; I could walk out at the end of the night without having felt the emotions too deeply in the pit of my stomach... What I remembered were the three guitarists at the front of the stage pouncing/pounding their instruments in unison at the end of "Memorial" in a way that suggested some unearthly dance of arms, some violence so fucking loud that I left the hallroom with a high pitch in my ears. How can music so sad be so loud that it'll rip your ears out?
So today's featured track is "The Moon Is Down," probably their most illegally sad piece, ten minutes of drowning in sound, from utter silence to manic frenzy. Turn off the lights when it's dusk and listen to the way the world falls away at exactly 5 minutes and 45 seconds into the piece.
On the way home, the rain had completely stopped. Central Park was a husk, just shadows and bright lights. A taxi, dirty feet, the couch, tired as hell, far from the war that Steinbeck once described in The Moon Is Down.
Explosions in the Sky -- The Moon Is Down [mp3]