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Explosions’ latest shows sky’s the limit

Fri., Sept. 2, 2011

Explosions in the Sky’s new album opens with quiet acoustic guitar fingerpicking and soft hand claps.

It’s a gentle cradle of sounds that could be used in the closing credits for a foreign film drama or during yoga class.

And … wait for it … at about the three-minute mark, the song, “Human Qualities,” descends to a muffled heartbeat drum march that finally fades and, for fraction of a second, there is a warm silence that is pulled apart when electric guitar gently creeps over the shoulder of acoustic strums, growing more and more frantic until, finally – about seven minutes in – the swell erupts into a violent torrent of percussive assaults and frenzied screeches, only to recede to a sleeping calm a minute later when the song closes.

The wrecking ball that just crashed through the yoga studio shrivels into a cotton ball and sways with the breeze from the newly smashed hole in the wall.

And so begins “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care,” the sixth studio album by the Texas post-rock quartet.

Released in April, it revisits the Explosions formula and tweaks it here and there to achieve a body of music that is similar to past studio outings without sounding redundant.

Yes, there are the expectedly unexpected crescendos laced by reverb-ridden guitars spiraling through extra-terrestrial, apocalyptic soundscapes that move at dream speed before utterly collapsing in on themselves.

And no, there aren’t any lyrics or traditional vocals to speak of, allowing the listener to assign his or her own stories, characters and memories to the aural cinema without instruction or preface.

But after more than a decade, Explosions in the Sky continues to gouge more from less, leaving ocean-deep pockets of negative space to be filled with colors and shapes that give face to a clashing pallet of emotions – sweet sadness, dark happiness, angry celebration, delirious serenity – that intersect with dizzying dynamics.

With only six tracks making up the 47-minute set, “Take Care” is a cluster of separate mini-epics orbiting each other like atoms sharing the same electrons.

The exceptions are “Trembling Hands” and “Let Me Back In.”

“Trembling Hands” runs a digestible three minutes and 30 seconds, while only one of the other five songs on the record clocks in under eight minutes. Maintaining a constant speed and intensity without any deviance, it’s as close to pop-rock as Explosions gets.

Conversely, the album’s closer, “Let Me Back In,” is a sprawling 10-plus minutes that has enough shifts and set changes to set it apart as a sort of self-contained album within the album.

As much a brotherhood as a band, Explosions in the Sky – guitarists Munaf Rayani and Mark Smith, bassist and guitarist Michael James and drummer Chris Hrasky – is still dependable for misleading compositions whose payoff lies as much with the imagination of the band as the listener.

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