Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Last Known Surroundings
Explosions In The Sky and Wye Oak at The Sound Academy in Toronto
Frank YangI’m sure they didn’t intend to be away for so long – it wasn’t their fault that the 2009 edition of the Toronto Islands show for which they were the undercard was cancelled – but as of Friday night’s long-awaited show at the Sound Academy., it had been over four years since Explosions In The Sky last played Toronto and you could round up closer to five if you’re talking headlining shows. A long time for any active, touring band but an eternity for an act whose fanbase grew markedly in the years between 2007’s All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone and this year’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care through key soundtrack placements and old fashioned word of mouth about how astonishing their cinematic, instrumental post-rock was.
Baltimore duo Wye Oak have been no such strangers hereabouts, their supporting slot marking their third show in Town this calendar year with one still to come. This was less a case of market oversaturation than simply keeping up with demand, though; specifically the demand of larger acts who wanted them to open up for them. And when the likes of The Decemberists, Explosions and The National ask you to come along on tour with them, you say yes. Since playing this same stage in February opening up for The Decemberists, Wye Oak had released their second album Civilian and toured it heavily, so even just eight months later there were noticeable differences in the band’s live show. The moodier Civilian must call for a leaner approach to things, as Jenn Wasner took fewer guitar excursions and Andy Stack seemed to be called on less to handle keyboard duties simultaneously with drums. It was as though the two were feeling more confident in their ability render the songs with just the guitars, drums and vocals, and when the keys were brought in, such as for some gut-punch bass, their contributions were extra-effective. In any case, it was mope-rock on a grand scale.
One of the most magical things about Explosions In The Sky, either live or on record, is how from the moment they begin to play you’re instantly transported to a world writ on 70mm film but left wide open. There is a universality to their music that allows it to be the soundtrack to the movie of each listener’s life, for them to write their own script and direct their own scenes, using the emotions and dynamics created by the band as cues. So I suspect that the people sitting, eyes closed, out of line of sight of the band were getting just as much out of the performance as the people jammed up front watching them actually play – or at least I’d like to think so; it’s possible they were just asleep.
It’s this intangible that allows them to transcend their formula and continue to connect and be remarkable. Their sound hasn’t really changed much since 2000’s How Strange, Innocence – they’re more adept at the push and pull of evoking emotional responses but any stylistic shifts over their career have been relative to the EITS aesthetic – they’ve never redefined, only refined. So even though Friday’s show pulled from their entire decade-plus repertoire, with a little extra emphasis on Take Care, it felt like a single, unified feature-length piece with gentle lulls and soaring crescendos in all the right places. One major difference from their last time through was for touring, they’d expanded to a five-piece with a full-time bassist which allowed for an even bigger sound with either a three guitar-attack or double-guitar, double-bass, all the sounding even more massive without losing any of the intricacies of their arrangements. As the final notes of “The Moon Is Down” rang out and the band bid farewell, hopefully without as long a wait between visits, I wanted to tell those gathered at the front pleading for an encore that the band doesn’t do encores, and if they wanted more they’d have to wait for the sequel.
Photos: Explosions In The Sky, Wye Oak @ The Sound Academy – October 7, 2011
MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “Trembling Hands”
MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “Welcome, Ghosts”
MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “Memorial”
MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “A Poor Man’s Memory”
MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “Greet Death”
MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “Look Into The Air”
MP3: Wye Oak – “Holy, Holy”
MP3: Wye Oak – “Civilian”
MP3: Wye Oak – “Take It In”
MP3: Wye Oak – “Warning”
Video: Explosions In The Sky – “Last Known Surroundings”
Video: Explosions In The Sky – “Be Comfortable, Creature”
Video: Wye Oak – “Holy, Holy”
Video: Wye Oak – “Fish”
Chicago post-rock instrumentalist Russian Circles will be at Lee’s Palace on November 12 in support of their new record Empros, due out October 25.
NPR is streaming the new My Brightest Diamond record All Things Will Unwind in advance of its release next week. There’s also a new video at Stereogum and some live video performances posted at Le Blogotheque.
Clash, The National Post, DIY, Drowned In Sound and The Los Angeles Times all have interviews with Ryan Adams about his new record Ashes & Fire and Exclaim has a list of RyRy trivia, but only LA Weekly manages to piss him off. Bravo. He plays The Winter Garden Theatre on December 10 and has released a live studio video and proper “if MTV still played videos” video from the new album.