April 27, 2011

Test Spins: Explosions in the Sky

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Is it the case that a multitude of sensory input can cloud our experience rather than clarify it? What would thought be like if our only sensory input was sound, and we were incapable of attaching any meaningful language? What would contemplation amount to? An arbitrary association of a particular tone to a particular emotion? How would we make sense of visceral sentience? How would we reflect upon and categorize emotions? Could we separate love from fear? Pain from pleasure? Yearning from satisfaction?

Explosions in the Sky have always explored music’s capacity for communicating thoughts implicitly through tone and rhythm, and their latest album is perhaps their most arresting. For forty-six minutes Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is both a lyricless symphony with objective grace and a subjective escape for the listener — but it needs to be taken all at once. Without lyrics or other blatant means, it embraces the mystery of subjective emotion by keeping a respectful distance from the listener. However, the album meditatively accomplishes a more perfect approximation to real emotion than words could possible have managed.

The album is a singularly cohesive experience, and to take on the tracks separately would do it an injustice. The track names are not there in order to divide the album; rather, they serve as contemplative guideposts for the listener. Some ask the listener to envision an emotionally charged image, such as “Trembling Hands,”  while others ask us to consider more abstract concepts, such as “Human Qualities.” But, of course, our directives are vague, and the band is relying on the subjectivity of the artistic encounter to establish the album’s worth.

The escape from life’s multi-sensory bombardment begins with a reflection on “Last Known Surroundings,” an album highlight which roller-coasters to a leveling climax before segueing faultlessly into the album’s core: a varied but seamless experience. “Human Qualities” is understated and unpredictable; “Trembling Hands” is frantic and appropriately stressful; “Be Comfortable, Creature” is a dreamlike and liberating; and “Postcard from 1952” is classic Explosions in the Sky, relentlessly hard-hitting to the point of exhaustion, but never overbearing. The album touches down with “Let Me Back In,” an echoing, swaying and eventually haunting closer.

With such a forceful album, any attempt at dissecting it with words will come desperately short. It’s deep shit — too deep to grasp with the limited dexterity of words. For fear of selling their effort short, I’ll refer you to the album for further elaboration.

Original Author: Nathan Tailleur