When turn-of-the-century post-rock was finding it’s voice amidst a constellation of comparable outfits, Explosions In The Sky earned their reputation rounding out that more relatable goldilocks zone between the manic joviality of Sigur Ros and almost soured minors of Mogwai. Earnestness is a word for what Explosions does with their “cathartic mini-symphonies,” and that earnestness is a part of why their work has enjoyed a longevity beyond its genre.
It’s not novel anymore; in fact, even in its nascence, post-pock, by the implication of its name, was derivative of an American musical orthodoxy being reacquainted to an even older compositional progenitor, the symphony, but it’s analogous to a certain shade of human emotions that cannot be accessed, musically, any other way.
Explosions’ Munaf Rayani has said, “We don’t consider ourselves post-rock at all,” but for me and many others, Explosions is the definitive artifact of a genre that moved mountains during its tenure. Whatever they do, they do it better than anyone else, and from the moment Rayani’s guitar washed over The Boulder Theater with the feedback of the first chord of the first song of the first show of their West Coast run earlier this month, it was clear that this is what the electric guitar is meant to be used for.
There’s a cult element that’s piqued in fans of Explosions In The Sky, a fraternity that accounts for the way in which, like the band itself, they play loose with many musical conventions. In Boulder, Colorado that evening there was no pushing or cramming toward the stage as would be expected at shows even half this loud, nor was any one demographic cleanly represented, speaking to the universality of the music. It was as if everyone cooperated to facilitate a certain experience they all wanted for each other.
On stage, it’s clear Explosions In The Sky are a band built out of delay, running on passion, and held together with a lot of duct tape. Michael James is in possession of a levity that keeps him playfully shifting weight from foot to foot as he moves over his guitar while Rayani pulls endless noise out of his strings with an E-bow and slide. The quartet can reside within a diminuendo for minutes at a time, yet when a change comes along, all four are perfectly tuned to one another. They completely feel everything they’re playing on stage. It’s kind of rare, and it’s extremely moving to behold.
Their previous album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, opened with the crushed feedback of “The Birth and Death of The Day.” Speculated by some to be their last work, in a way it played like a warm epitaph spanning the birth and death of delay and the genre that was built upon it, a sort of absolution for the musical technologies of the 20th century. Returning last April with Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, Explosions has in a way demonstrated that music of this sort will last forever because it’s honest; and honesty never stops being accessible to listeners. Politely, the four thanked everyone for being there, and with instruments still ringing out, walked off stage.
Photos by Dan Mancini, Edited by Jimmy Gable, SneakyBoy Studios