As if following a run of stellar albums and playing to a steadily growing following weren't enough, the Texas quartet Explosions In The Sky gives itself plenty to live up to on the first 90 seconds or so of its fourth proper album, All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone. After a few moments of silence, a low distorted rumble begins, joined by a cascading guitar line that threatens to pierce through the instrument's upper register before giving way to the rumble and the silence again. It's a stop-dead moment. It's also just the fanfare.
The vocal-less group long ago proved that it's a master of the slow-building crescendo, of layering one noise on top of another using just drums, guitars, and bass—and occasionally no bass at all. Sudden's closing track adds a piano, but the sound remains much the same. Songs keep building as the guitars repeat themes until they change shape, propelled along by an almost-martial drumbeat that has a habit of disappearing and reappearing as the song demands. Sometimes the bottom drops out, or the playing simply fades into nothingness. At other times, it keeps building until there's nothing to do burst.
Though it's often lumped in with post-rock bands, Explosions In The Sky is as close in spirit to adventurous film-score music, and it served as such for the film Friday Night Lights. The moods it creates are hard to pin down, and song titles like "So Long, Lonesome" and "It's Natural To Be Afraid" work only as signposts. It's easy to get lost in the strange balance between delicacy and muscle, which, to borrow a phrase from a much different band, resembles nothing so much as a dream in sound.
[Note: A two-disc version of this album, featuring remixes by Four Tet, Adem, and others, is available through independent retailers.]