Explosions in the Sky

support Mountains & Parachutes
author LF date 15/06/16 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Even though I have followed post-rock as a genre for a while now, I have never had the opportunity to see Explosions in the Sky live before today. Our photographers are sadly otherwise occupied, so there will be no photos accompanying this review. I have been pleased to see that the show sold out weeks ago but even so, there's no line at the door and only scattered groups of people in front of the venue's big stage upstairs when I arrive shortly before the Danish support band is about to start.

Mountains & Parachutes - Realize Real Lies

Mountains & Parachutes

I only recently acquainted myself with this rock band from Skanderborg but, as I wrote in my review of their EP, I have been positively surprised by their "floating rock" so far. Their setup tonight features nothing less than three synth players, two of them doubling as main vocalists and facing each other in the middle of the stage. Their dynamic works very well here, one singing a clear falsetto with slight movements of his lips and looking mysterious in his dark trenchcoat, while the other provides more forceful and direct vocals while also playing the guitar. To begin with, they have some problems with the sound, mainly their Moog, as the vocalist tasked with communicating with us states in his Jutlandish dialect a while into the show. Come their newest single "Realize Real Lies" however, everything sounds like a well-running machinery, and the early imprecisions in the vocal performances are smoothed out as well. "Two-Faced" provides another highlight of the set where the synth player on the left side of the stage shines with her echoing vocals. During their set, more and more people arrive, and most of them also stick around nodding their heads to the soaring music. Compared to the usual non-speaking bands you get at post-rock shows, this quintet is very energetic in their demeanour, and while people aren't exactly up for dancing around the room this Wednesday evening, they give a solid applause after the band's final song along with an immediate "Yeah!" from one excited audience member.


Explosions in the Sky - Disintegration Anxiety

Explosions In The Sky

As a fan who is shamefully unacquainted with most of this band's discography, it is a breathtaking experience to go to a show of theirs and take a lot of it in for the first time. Initially, we wait around while smoke is being filled into the room and the band walks back and forth on the stage seemingly having some trouble with an amp. After half an hours time, however, the buzzing in the room changes into claps and ecstatic yells when the band re-enter the stage and pick up their instruments. One guitarist to the right steps forward to a microphone and greets us entirely in Danish to much applause, concluding with the sentence "Vi er Eksplosioner I Himlen", and there's something very humble about that, considering the only other thing we will hear spoken from the stage is words of thank you and goodbye in the end. Just as soon as the playing begins, though, everyone turns quiet and during the calmer passages of the set, people are generally shushed if they do anything but whisper to each other. The air is heavy with expectation, but also a certain kind of awe for these five men that seem to give it their all tonight, headbanging and throwing their bodies in time to the music. They are only lit up from below all around them, and most notably by a line of coloured lights shooting up from the front of the stage, creating a veil of light between us and the band that changes colours and hues, sometimes rhythmically. This is a seemingly simple effect that creates a surprisingly dynamic visual side to the band's grand music.

As the music they play is instrumental rock that borders at times on ambient, their compositions seem to be built around movements rather than verses or choruses, and that is especially felt in the live setting where every drum beat and reverberating bass note is not just heard but felt in your body. The knowing audience clap every time a song is finished but for the uninitiated, there's sometimes no telling where one song ends and the next one begins as the band plays continuously for one a half hour. I recognise themes here and there and of course the songs from the band's newest album which I have immersed myself in earlier, out of which especially "The Ecstatics" and "Disintegration Anxiety" make a great impression. More than anything, though, it's the flow that one notices. It's possible to float away for what seems like forever in a single song that turns out when you check the time to have only lasted a few minutes. Still, I find myself surprised at not having to struggle too much with keeping my attention on the band. Rather, there's often something new to focus on in the very dynamic soundscapes they weave together and there's a rare personal presence in the very sounds of the instrument played by each person on stage. It feels surreal when it finally ends and we slowly move outside to pouring rain and I brace for a wet bike ride home. Despite some of the ebb-and-flow dynamics in the set seeming to repeat themselves a slight bit, there's no denying that this is a band to be experienced live, and I'm sure to be there again the next time, hopefully even better prepared.

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