You could be forgiven for wondering if the Texas post-rock outfit Explosions in the Sky was ever going to release another album proper. In the five years since Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, the quartet has returned to soundtracking and in a big way. EITS worked on Prince Avalanche, Lone Survivor and Manglehorn, turning out some great work that showcased their ability to craft emotional climaxes from the interplay between Munaf Rayani and Mark Smith’s guitars, Michael James’ bass and Chris Hrasky’s drums. But perhaps because of that soundtrack experience, their seventh album The Wilderness introduces a more streamlined EITS, well-attuned in their ability to fuel emotional highs and lows and equally comfortable doing so on tracks ranging from two and a half to seven minutes.

Opening with “Wilderness” and “The Ecstatics,” two of the band’s shortest tracks in their 16-year career, EITS forge a familiar motif, building on softly chugging electronics—with the addition of light piano touches on the former—to a crescendo of drums and atmospheric guitars. The effect is rarely aggressive, with the music firmly in the realm of the ethereal and downright meditative. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t kick it up a notch. “Tangle Formations” is one of the few tracks here that could be described as “driving.” Hrasky’s drums are in fact the driving force around which the plaintive guitars swirl, this time heavily evocative of the vocalist that EITS has never had.

But what is immediately noticeable on The Wilderness is the band’s commitment to maintaining the gulfs of emotion contained within their music but now doing so less through epic crescendos. “Disintegration Anxiety,” clocking in at just over four minutes, serves as a perfect example. Starting with carnival-esque electronic programming, the song subsides into serene near-silence before erupting in rhythmic guitar riffs. And EITS draw out the emotion with an ambient interlude over subdued drums before launching into one final transcendental riff. Compared to “Colors in Space,” a song that wallows in ambient electronics for the bulk of its seven minutes before allowing first drums, then a piquant guitar and ending in a flurry of garbled white noise, “Disintegration Anxiety” packs an emotional punch.

What The Wilderness highlights is the very range EITS has within its ambient arsenal. These aren’t just nine songs of visceral guitar and drum patterns. Rather, EITS can go from the fuzzed out finale of “Colors in Space” to the shimmering euphoria of “Landing Cliffs” seamlessly. Even within the span of a song, the band leans toward this segmented approach in their songwriting. “Logic of a Dream” consists of very self-contained movements. It begins with an almost inaudible bassline that erupts into a throbbing guitar. Layered over these suspenseful blasts of noise is Hrasky on military, battle-style drums. Whistling electronics become more and more high-pitched, increasing the tension on the track until it might simply burst. But when EITS reach that tipping point, they don’t carry the emotional high into a dramatic flurry. Instead, they segue into a light blend of an indie rock drum beat and a fairly middle-of-the-road guitar line. The emotion is essentially deflated as soon as it becomes uncontrollable. It’s a brave way to conclude such a tense arrangement.

Needless to say, after 16 years EITS know their style well and have only gotten better at milking their arrangements for all their emotional payoff. In that regard, The Wilderness does not disappoint. But this somewhat abbreviated version of the band may take some listeners by surprise. Instead of six epic tracks (as is their usual offering), EITS has opted to pepper in glimpses of atmospherics. Tracks like “Infinite Orbit” or “The Ecstatics” are no less complete, but they make more economical use of their runtime than any other previous EITS songs.

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