When musical artists or compendium of musical artists known as “bands” become too thrilling to resist, it’s time to get the back story and dig up the work they did before they were so irresistible. Thus, the phenomenon of the re-release. Some bands might force this nostalgia onto unwilling audiences just to make a quick buck, but the members of Explosions in the Sky seem far too modest about their early efforts. The band’s hand-written apology reproduced on the face of the re-released How Strange, Innocence cites a lack of “tricks” on the recordings.
Caught on tape in January 2000, just seven months into this four-piece’s lifespan, How Strange, Innocence was originally burned onto 300 CD-Rs and given away to anyone who’d listen. Since then, many people have listened to Explosions in the Sky’s earnest guitar, bass and drum instrumentals, and now they want to hear everything else the band has to offer.
Even without all the reverb and layers of clever instrumentation that make the band’s second and third albums fully enthralling, How Strange, Innocence provides plenty of evidence to help us get to know this band better. All the thought and emotion behind its more recent work is present in these early iterations of the band’s soaring style, with the occasional one-off, such as the addition of cello in one bit and even some scattered keyboards filling out the atmospherics. Most consistent on the seven tracks of this nearly fifty-minute album is the wistfulness they do so damn well on “First Breath After Coma” on The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. In particular, “Look into the Air” contains hints of My Morning Jacket’s placid yet earth-shaking despondence.
This Austin, Texas-based band’s name has always been apt: The music reflects the wonder of watching fireworks and the fury of igniting more violent flashes of light in the night sky. Each song is an encapsulated progression from quiet contemplation to sadness to rage, concluding with a resolve to carry on. Somehow the result is more invigorating than you’d expect from such melancholic instrumentals, a tendency made clear from this album’s first track, “A Song for Our Fathers.”
If at times existing too much in the upper registers of a uni-directional tension, this album offers plenty to illustrate the full gamut of Explosions in the Sky’s musical characterization of the human thought-process. The second track, “Snow and Lights,” concludes with drums that would rouse even the most apathetic to action, and the album’s closer, “Remember Me As a Time of Day,” yanks listeners through waves of relief and anguish.
Without the reverb shield of Explosions in the Sky’s latest efforts, How Strange, Innocence seems to offer a chance to get closer to the band’s music. It’s like going through your best friend’s childhood photos, seeing the naked bathtub pictures and then realizing they really shouldn’t be embarrassed by their innocence. In the same way, the album’s stripped-down sound doesn’t offend, it merely reveals how this band has managed to transport audiences since its members first started playing together.
Explosions in the Sky Web site: http://www.explosionsinthesky.com/
Temporary Residence Web site: http://www.temporaryresidence.com/
“Look into the Air” MP3: http://www.temporaryresidence.com/mp3s/explosions_lookinto.mp3
“Memorial” MP3: http://www.temporaryresidence.com/mp3s/explosions_memorial.mp3