Explosions in the Sky: Manchester Academy 1


Texans unleash their post-rock tidal wave over Manchester.

First off, a gripe.
Since when did Explosions in the Sky attract the kind of ignorant monkeys you’d expect grunting their way through an Oasis gig? Attending a Gallagher brother-endorsed showpiece is a little akin to that scene in The Vikings were Ragnar jumps full-force into a pit of raging animals acquiescent that he may not survive the slaughter-feast, but by Valhalla, he’ll be in heaven when its over.
The same experience simply shouldn’t be allowed or even tolerated at an Explosions in the Sky concert – an event which requires complete concentration, complete stillness, complete respect, allowing the quartet to consume you while you strain for those pin-dropping spidery guitar fireworks tumbling from the ether.
Tonight, for the first 20 minutes the chimps are chattering and seemingly only in attendance to disrupt the explosive ambience.
I’m off to see these at All Tomorrow’s Parties…
Yeah, so am I, can’t wait, how many people in your chalet?
Five, I think, if Maria’s coming it maybe six, you taking any beer?
Dunno, s’pose so. When is it?
You see, EitS are in essence an ambient band. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but their magic works in weaving the cyclical rhythms of drummer Chris Hrasky and bass player Michael James with the intricate twin-lead guitars of Mark Smith and the manic Munaf Rayani.
What starts as a simple chime of clean notes and nearly-there brushed beats evolves over lengthy passages into cacophonous dissonance.
The feeling is akin to wading out to sea and feeling the tide lap up against you; the deeper you tread, the greater the force and pull, until you’re lost and completely at the whim of the ebb and flow of great crashing waves of sound.
It’s a powerful experience – but one which requires patience for the effect to truly take hold.
Tonight’s show contains more dabbling with the dark side than the last time they toured the UK – this is in fact third time lucky for Manchester after two aborted shows in April and July 2007 – with The Birth and Death of The Day taken from their last record All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone (they don’t do short titles) given an additional discordant rush of firepower – indeed the latter half sees the first of bassist James’ characteristic hammer blows to the body of his instrument sending off fizzing shock waves into the auditorium.
And the epic It’s Natural To Be Afraid carries more than a hint of Mogwai thunder. Evolving from menacing drone into 15 minutes of white-hot beauty by which point Rayani’s twisted body is sending dancing shadows off either side of the Academy walls. It’s magnificent to behold.
Like many post-rock bands, EitS’ effectiveness lies in listening to their records as a complete whole, and there are passages where an attempt to seamlessly blend tracks together result in the spell being broken and its perhaps easy to understand some restlessness in the huge Academy 1 gathering, they are after all moving ever closer to mainstream attention.
But tonight’s show cannot be viewed other than an overwhelming triumph. Book ended by their two most powerful numbers, First Breath After Coma and a mighty The Only Moment We Were Alone from 2003’s classic The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, Manchester is – for the most part – lost in awe and wonder.