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Live Review: Explosions in the Sky @ Stockholm, Sweden’s Debaser Medis (11/14)

Bands: Explosions in the SkyThe Drift
Location: Stockholm, Sweden’s Debaser Medis
Date: November 14, 2011

Video from Debaser Medis

These days are some of the last days of the fall in Sweden, and the land awaits thick white carpets of snow to wipe off the ghosts of last spring in the form of all the yellow and orange leaves laying on the ground or still holding on to the most reluctant trees.

Autumn, in my opinion, is a season that fits very well with post rock, so there couldn’t have been a better time of the year for me to attend a live performance of Explosions in the Sky, whose European tour brought them to Stockholm and onto the stage of Debaser Medis. This Texas band re-defined the genre, becoming almost synonymous with cinematic, emotional instrumental tunes, quickly gaining the reputation of having a killer live show.

The music started around 8 with opening act The Drift. I really liked this band, and one of the things that made them so enjoyable for me was that despite the fact that the California trio also are defined as instrumental post-rock, their approach was very different from that of Explosions in the Sky, blessing the evening with some variety.

The trio generated a massive wall of sound with the aid of very essential instrumentation (a minimal drum kit, a bass, a guitar and a synth) and their set alternated between static and haunting moments to marching drums and psychedelic rock vibes. Somewhere in between This Will Destroy You and Maserati, but with a retro twist, The Drift entertained (and impressed) the audience of an almost sold out Debaser Medis, (around 1500-2000 people maybe?), all warmed up for the leading act of the evening.

A quick change of instrumentation on stage and curtains opened up again, revealing Explosions in the Sky ready to start their set. A quick introduction speech and the music started with fan-favorite “First Breath After Coma”, the wonderful opener to the band’s album The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place. The band’s trademarks are its simple, yet intricate guitar textures that perfectly melt on top of the rhythm section, and I think the musicians definitely live up to their reputation as a great live band, being able to re-create the magic of their formula perfectly on a stage, even adding a lot more energy and dynamics.

After the familiar first song, the band moved on to play a track from their new album (Take Care, Take Care, Take Care) called “Last Known Surroundings”, that gets a lot sharper and more aggressive live than on the record, with an extremely distorted e-bowed guitar on a side and a cleaner, more melodic one on the other, all fueled by marching drums and pounding bass. The songs off the new record shine in a different light on stage, bringing in a more progressive feel with overall faster tempo and heavier music. After a brief intersection, the band launched into “Catastrophe and The Cure”, making everyone headbang before abruptly ending with a wall of distortion to set the ground for “The Only Moment We Were Alone”, probably my personal favorite song of the band. One single string hammering the same note on a guitar evolved into an enchanting 3 guitar arpeggio texture and evolved until it reached its emotional and musical climax. Faded background voices and noise introduced “Let Me Back In”, bringing a darker mood to the table along with the older “Greet Death” . The mood then shifted lighter again with the bright, major chords that introduced “Be Comfortable, Creature”.

One of the most emotional break-downs of the evening is probably the intro to “The Birth And Death Of The Day”, where walls of distortion turned into a carpet of arpeggio guitars before finally bleeding into “The Moon Is Down”, an epic outro to a really great concert where both The Drift and Explosions in the Sky carried the audience along with them on a musical and emotional journey.

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