Something has gone terribly wrong up in the mountains, or in a remote valley, or deep in the eldritch forest. But fear not, for crack post-rock rescue team Explosions In The Sky are primed to swing into action, delivering quiet lows and loud highs along the course of their Rescue mission.
Between the highs of the first Tortoise long-player and my catching up with Explosions In The Sky via their All of a sudden I miss everyone set, I had largely avoided any practitioners of the quiet-loud shtick, spurning among others Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and unwittingly the Explosions themselves. (Tortoise shouldn’t really be mentioned in quiet-loud company, as they’ve always brick-built their music rather than nitroglycerined it.) It just seemed so obvious; a trick to be utilised now and again, but not one on which to base a whole recording career. But I heard ‘Catastrophe and the cure’ from All of a sudden and fell for its wordless coral reef and sea-bed beauty, its twinning or splicing of the ‘Tin cans & twine’ of Tortoise and the EPs recorded by the Cocteau Twins between Treasure and Victorialand.
Of course, not only do you have to be in the mood for quiet-loud, but mentally prepared for it too – in times of stress it’s the last thing you need. Usually I prefer something more nuanced, something which makes more sophisticated play of dynamics, swelling like the high sea but not necessarily crashing about like a storm coming down fast and hard on a millpond ocean. So at these times I avoid for example ‘Yasmin the light’ from the Explosions’ Those who tell the truth shall die… set. Instead I look to The rescue, where they do rather less of the quiet-loud thing, aside from a couple of numbers, preferring instead to let guitars and other machines shimmer, and drums weave patterns in the minds of those in need of rescue as they fade in and out of consciousness while awaiting help. They even try their hands at singing.
I’m over-dramatising. Something hasn’t in fact gone terribly wrong up in the mountains; turns out it’s the shot transmission on their tour van that drives The rescue’s underlying story arch. You get the feeling that the group might have said, shit, we’re stuck here, let’s write and record an album about being stuck here; or at least, when they recorded The rescue four years after the incident, that was the feeling they were trying to recreate.
The Rescue is available as a free download from the Explosions’ website, where you’ll also find a track from each album. Merry Christmas.