Without a word, letting the instruments do the talking

Explosions in the Sky do just that – they detonate like a burning star. Their music consists of moving instrumental passages that not only demand attention, but leave the listener at its mercy, experiencing a

Explosions in the Sky do just that – they detonate like a burning star. Their music consists of moving instrumental passages that not only demand attention, but leave the listener at its mercy, experiencing a whirlwind of emotion.

Don’t be confused, as this falls far from the snobbish sensibilities of traditional emo music. This is truly powerful music that evokes a full spectrum of feelings.

Recently an influx of instrumental bands, or bands with an instrumental focus, have swept the worldwide indie music scene. Bands like Mogwai pioneered this movement in the early 90s, and the music was quickly coined “post-rock.” Post-rock is understood by its connoisseurs to be powerful, accelerating music with a torrential climax of raw emotion. Using typical rock instrumentation (guitars, bass and drums) the post-rock sound begins delicate and small, gradually moving toward an epic crescendo.

The style abandons the typical rock format
characterized by the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus pattern. Explosions in the Sky follow this procedure to an extent, but according to drummer Christopher Hrasky, that is not intentional.

“We like to consider ourselves a rock band. We try to stay away from that word post-rock,” he said. “You know, we’re a group of four guys, playing guitars and drums, playing really loud.”

Interestingly enough, this Texas-based band is one of the few successful instrumental and post-rock bands to come from the United States. Most groups of this genre come from Canada, Japan or Europe. Explosions in the Sky received a great deal of publicity in the States and abroad after composing the soundtrack to the 2004 film “Friday Night Lights,” which is an equally epic tale about high school football. While Hrasky said the group is more rock than post-rock, after a listen to its music, it’s obvious Explosions in the Sky has a style all its own.

“Symphonic is sort of a silly word to use, but it kind of works. It isn’t three minute pop songs, but rather sprawling pieces. It’s very cinematic music,” Hrasky said.

“Which isn’t to say that we don’t like three minute pop songs.”

A typical Explosions in the Sky song begins
with a lone, reverberating guitar note, repeated in a simple rhythmic pattern. Other melodies gradually weave their way in, creating a beautiful mental scene of emotion. Since there are no vocals, the feeling one person gets from the same song may be entirely different than another listener.

“With a novel or any story, there’s a course of development. If you’re not working with any words, you’ll tend to associate that narrative sense with any particular experience you’ve had, making the music very personal.

Explosions in the Sky have a very, very good handle on this sort of narration,” said Pat Case, a sophomore majoring in music education. Many instrumental bands rely too heavily on strange effects and modulations of their sounds. Often, an instrumental band builds a song off a particular effect; much like a movie producer may imagine a particular scene dependent on a special effect, and attempt to construct a viable story around that imagery.

The end result for both is often cheapened by producers rushing to build something substantial around one particular theme or effect. This is not the case for Explosions in the Sky, who aim for accessible, substantial music.

“Yeah, we definitely have a fair amount of reverb and delay effects. One thing we try hard to do is write songs that, if stripped down to acoustic guitars, would still sound like legitimate songs,” Hrasky said.

Explosions in the Sky began touring in mid-February to support their new album, “All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.”

Their Philadelphia show on March 18 at the Starlight Ballroom quickly sold out – evidence that this band’s sound has not only grown beyond rock, but exploded out of the venues in which it performs.

Julian Root can be reached at julian.root@temple.edu.

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