Live Music + Gig Reviews

Explosions In The Sky @ Troxy, London

8 November 2023

Texas guitar outfit’s meticulously assembled, emotion-infused epics confirm them to still be the compassionate, human face of post-rock

Explosions In The Sky (Photo: Nick Simonite)

Explosions In The Sky (Photo: Nick Simonite)

Since first appearing back in 2000, Explosions In The Sky have always been one of the purest proponents of the post-rock genre. While other bands associated with that scene have gradually come to incorporate vocals, strings or samples into their music, the Texas outfit have largely retained a rigidly guitar-centric aesthetic which has served them well.

Their engaging instrumental soundscapes have always had a strong cinematic element to them, so it wasn’t a surprise to see them work on various film soundtracks over recent years. However, this year finally saw them return to studio albums, releasing their eighth record End back in September. It saw them opt to consolidate and refine their sound, maintaining long held strengths and satisfying their long-term fanbase. Tonight’s show at the Troxy in east London was to be similarly rewarding experience with the band airing some of the new material but also revisiting some of their classic moments.

They begin with one of these. First Breath After Coma shows how their sound is very much built from the ground upwards, single guitar lines slowly expanding into elegant and organic forests of sound. It’s the first of three tracks from The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, the band still clearly finding satisfaction in playing pieces from their acclaimed 2001 album after recently performing it in full in a handful of American shows.

The first of four new tracks aired tonight is Peace Or Quiet, which showcases their full spectrum of dynamics, beginning in a way that recalls the softness of early Mogwai before erupting in animated fashion. All Mountains soon follows, a typically flawless exercise in the accumulation and release of tension. Loved Ones and The Fight meanwhile both reflect the recent small stylistic concession found on latest album End, as delicate piano lines run through the stratospheric megastructures.

The older material they play sees them resort to more tried and tested tactics. Greet Death eschews any subtlety, an uncompromisingly muscular sonic barrage that shows they can more than compete with other post-rock titans.The Birth And Death Of The Day, from 2007’s All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone is a neon-lit sonic cityscape full of ambitious architecture while Catastrophe And The Cure, from the same album, showcases their expertise at infusing absorbing, wordless storylines into their incendiary epics.

Your Hand In Mine is still one of the most compassionate and emotional sounding post-rock pieces and tonight unfurls gently, aided my militaristic drumming before exquisitely lighting up the sky in a thrilling finale. They finish with the meticulously assembled, lazer guided The Only Moment We Were Alone which, judging by the audience reaction, confirms them to be the caring, human face of post-rock that are still loved by many.

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