Friday, July 08, 2005

Listen! Listen...!!!: Worth A Thousand Words Pt. 3

To refresh everyone's memory, the theme this week is Worth A Thousand Words, a look at Instrumental Rock.



Explosions In The Sky: the earth is not a cold dead place

Back in 2001, a flare went up somewhere above Austin, Texas. Like a bright star falling from the sky, it became evident that this was only a figurative beacon. A warning shot had been fired by a group of four impassioned individuals who were coming to stake their claim on the territory that had been claimed for several years by post rock giants such as the orchestral Montreal collective Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Scottish dynamo Mogwai. For those of you unfamiliar with both GYBE! and Mogwai, they are both instrumental bands with very few vocals if any, and a penchant for taking the listener on a reverse bungee ride of sonically dynamic valley and peaks. To some it seems like as much a standard device as if they were any other band using an A-B-A style verse-chorus-verse format, but somehow the knowledge that these bands use the lull of sedate guitar passages to draw you in, only to be bashed with walls of crashing dissonance still keeps many of us coming back for more. If these bands are the reigning champs of this style, then Explosions In The Sky are the dark horse entries who truly deserve the crown. EITS have the quiet/loud thing down to be sure, but one thing I love about this album is that they don't feel that they need to use it constantly to be effective. In fact, one of the key elements that makes The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place so effective is their choice of less full on bombast and more tension.

Another excellent point about the album, is the textual interplay between the titles of songs and their contents. As I mentioned with Dirty Three's Ocean Songs earlier this week, the titles are not mere badges of identification for the songs, but an actual thematic anchor with which the listener can use as a basis of context in lieu of lyrics. Songs like "Six Days At The Bottom of The Ocean" for example, rely on skeletal guitar lines with accent notes, which drop out and give way to muffled drums and the faint echoes of notes, which are reminiscent of water rippling. The whole tune is given a dark, frenetic feel. Towards the end one can feel the palpable claustrophobia hinted at in the song's title. The same can be said of the opening track, "First Breath after Coma", in which the the steady, insistent bass is like a human heart, riding on shimmering cymbals in a dream like state, until the slow build up of the instruments into a steady burst of increasing melodic feedback and volume, like someone fitfully waking from an actual coma.

Throughout the album, the guitars shimmer and weave ethereal patterns that seem to spiral upwards from nowhere, backed by the steady bass and militaristic precision evident in the double stroked drumbeats that could have been lifted from a drum corps marching band.

In short, this band puts their heart, pathos, and joy into several mortars, aims to the heavens and puts on the best Goddamn fireworks display you'll never see.

Key Tracks: First Breath After Coma, The Only Moment We Were Alone, Six Days At The Bottom of The Ocean

23 comments:

krysta jo said...

ahhhh but the earth is a cold dead place.

Nice one agaih.

krysta jo said...

And...let's all take a look at the English major's spelling error...I meant to say...Nice one again.

Kern said...

Thanks. I was really pleased with how this one turned out. Probably moreso than any of the others this week. I have so many themes it's hard to pick which one I want to do for next week. But I'll give you a hint about the one I'm thinking of doing. It's possibly going to involve the number 2.

And no, I don't mean that in the scatological sense, in case anyone wants to get gutter on me...

Kern said...

KJ-How did your quiz and other tasks go yesterday?

krysta jo said...

Test was ok - I think. I either passed or failed and it's over now, so I have moved on. Mostly because I have no desire to be taking the class anyway. But it's half over now.

Work projects - we won't go into that. They got done and look quite fantastic, but it looks like I'll be in this weekend to catch up on work that exceeds my 20 hr/week limit.

Today is "I love my boss" day.

krysta jo said...

Good news - Jed-o will be back on the blog in just a few days.

Kern said...

Yes! I'm counting down the days. How are things going over there today?

I'm so excited about coming back, I can't sleep, which accounts for my tired state and crazed, giddy demeanor.

urnotme said...

What's up people

urnotme said...

I listened! Nice song titles. I kept waiting for something to happen in the songs. It reminds me of something that would be played in Purgatory if there was such a place. I felt anxious.

Oh yeah. I need to email you Kern. I'm not sure if you have that at work anyway, but worth a shot.

Kern said...

Urnotme: Did you get actual songs, or just the 30 second clips? The big thing about them is the buildup throughout the songs to a big payoff at the end. Well, usually. There's a lot more crescendo in their first album.

I do frequently check my email at work.

urnotme said...

Hey man what's up. I just sent you an email. Yeah of course I got the 30 second clips :( I think that's half the problem. These instrumentals need to be listened from track 1 to track 10 and not in 30 second clips. I think I'll check and see if they have any of this stuff at the library. I'm headed there in a few. My Jon Stewart America book is in. Are you in to him or do you ever watch the daily show? I'm a very conservative republican(as if you couldn't tel), but I just can't get enough of him. Sarcasm is one of my biggest pleasures in life. I think I am probably truly evil. At least not AMIEV1L--where the eff is Jed when I need him!? I love making fun of him.

urnotme said...

damn i ramble

Kern said...

Urnotme: Yeah, I do occassionally catch the Daily Show. I enjoy Jon Stewart, though I must say I think his best performance was his evisceration of Tucker Carlson on Crossfire that time. Never has a someone deserved being called a dick more.

urnotme said...

Seriously I was thinking about mentioning that while I typed that last log, but forgot while rambling on. If they hadn't went to commercial or constantly interupted him he was going to take him the ef down. It was still good.

krysta jo said...

Nice picture urnotme. You are REALLY hot.

urnotme said...

Thanks. I try to work out.

krysta jo said...

Your teeth are uber scary.

Kern said...

Seconded.

Urnotme: I got yr email, and I'll most likely access the file when I get home this evening and send it along it should make for some nice weekend reading. Some people have had to put it down because they find reading screenplays a little odd. Just a little disclaimer.

I personally think in certain respects it's very visual and really feels like a movie in my mind as I read it. I dig it.

QueenB said...

anyone out there?

Kern said...

Hello!

QueenB said...

whattup----

QueenB said...

Kern, Thanks for the really GREAT compliment that you gave me on my artwork. It made my day. Thanks again.

Kern said...

No problem. It's awesome to see people doing good work. I didn't check, but did you have other paintings on yr Flickr account?