Lightning Strikes

Incandescent instrumental rock from Austin, Texas

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A four-piece comprising just two guitars, bass and drums, Explosions In The Sky seek to capture, examine and elongate moments of high emotion, awe and desolation through playing which rises in cascades of manna and static, then ebbs to a subdued and pensive pulse. Unlike notional peers Godspeed! You Black Emperor, they deliberately limit their sonic options by not deploying strings, synths or samples. This purity, though, gives the music a particular aliveness. Listening to The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place is not unlike watching the motions of some great white underwater organism. Explosions are part of the extremely fertile Texas scene which also threw up the extraordinary Lift To Experience (the bands are friends), whose debut album, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, was Uncut’s Album Of The Month back in July 2001 (Take 50).

There are just five tracks here, each of which seeks to capture the mood invoked by their titles. The high tides and clashing sound waves of opener “First Breath After Coma” conjure the onslaught of ambivalent feelings that come as consciousness returns. The silvery, urgent writhing of “The Only Moment We Were Alone” could be a transcription of the blurry black-and-white photo of a decisive moment seized, the unspoken possibilities of a few seconds extrapolated.

“Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean” was inspired by the harrowing fate of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, whose crew perished, stranded on the sea bed in 2000. An anxious key change seems to signify the realisation of their tragedy, and there’s a disturbing sense throughout of the last gasps of life bubbling away in the horrible quiet of their tomb. Yet it’s also a strangely magnificent and defiant piece, a requiem perhaps. “Memorial” twines slowly and vertically, panning back to reveal something quite monumental.

Profoundly romantic closer “Your Hand In Mine” captures the impulse of this overwhelming music?an affirmation of love and connectivity in a world which sometimes seems to fight against these things. A formidable demonstration of what can still be done with guitars.


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