Tracks of the Decade: “First Breath After Coma” by Explosions in the Sky

“First Breath After Coma”
by Explosions in the Sky
from THE EARTH IS NOT A COLD DEAD PLACE (2003)

Instrumental post-rock was nothing new when Explosions in the Sky hit the scene in the last years of the 20th Century. Bands like Tortoise and Tarentel were only two acts in a sea of literary-minded illiterate indies, and Midland, Texas was not the hub of the scene by any means. Yet somehow, through what could perhaps be termed a series of fortunate events, Explosions found themselves the forerunners of the post-rock movement with the release of their third full-length in 2003, especially after they helmed the soundtrack to the masterful film adaption of H.G. Bissiner’s Friday Night Lights. “First Breath After Coma” finds the band at their most anthemic and narrative, building layer upon layer from a steady, chiming guitar into a furious wall of sound. The listener only need close his eyes in order to visualize a slow awakening to consciousness, culminating in a full-on adrenaline surge right around 3:30. And while we may commonly associate the bands’ music with football at this point, the stark and wide-swinging melodicism of the track’s first four minutes evokes artillery shells falling on heroic soldiers rather than pigskins falling into the arms of over-padded high school kids. Musically, the tri-guitar attack leaves nothing to be desired, but it’s Chris Hrasky’s steady beat that martials the song’s elegaic emotion and masterfully choreographs the rhythmic fireworks. All in all, “First Breath After Coma” was a clear indication of the band taking their game to the next level, and to this day it still ranks as their crowning achievement. As the enormous wall of distorted guitar feedback slowly advances over the last minute of the track, you’ll find yourself marvelling at the 9 minute instrumental POP song you’ve just heard. Did they really just pull that off?

Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (2009)

Tortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship; 2009
Thrill Jockey
My Rating: 39/100
Tortoise are one of the grand behemoths of post-rock, making almost-accessible experimental music for some fifteen or sixteen years now. Their first three full-lengths are testimonies to the power of sound, rife with inspiration and vision. Unfortunately, the band started to lose their way with STANDARDS, emphasizing the free-form influences of their jazz leanings over the structured instrumentalism of their earlier work. That didn’t ruin STANDARDS, which remains a pretty good record in and of itself, but it bears itself in full bloom on ANCESTORSHIP, their six full-length work. At this point the band seems completely different from the band bearing the same name in the 1990’s. Sure, there are interesting and pretty sounds here, but all in all the band seems to have simply lost the plot. I can’t really say too much beyond that. The songs just don’t have the power behind them to work their way into my head. Instead, BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP just sort of bounces off the cranial surface, heading into the abyss of space like radio static. Hope isn’t lost for another great Tortoise record, but the band’s really gonna have to pull something together next time to get me to listenTortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship; 2009
Thrill Jockey
My Rating: 39/100
Tortoise are one of the grand behemoths of post-rock, making almost-accessible experimental music for some fifteen or sixteen years now. Their first three full-lengths are testimonies to the power of sound, rife with inspiration and vision. Unfortunately, the band started to lose their way with STANDARDS, emphasizing the free-form influences of their jazz leanings over the structured instrumentalism of their earlier work. That didn’t ruin STANDARDS, which remains a pretty good record in and of itself, but it bears itself in full bloom on ANCESTORSHIP, their six full-length work. At this point the band seems completely different from the band bearing the same name in the 1990’s. Sure, there are interesting and pretty sounds here, but all in all the band seems to have simply lost the plot. I can’t really say too much beyond that. The songs just don’t have the power behind them to work their way into my head. Instead, BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP just sort of bounces off the cranial surface, heading into the abyss of space like radio static. Hope isn’t lost for another great Tortoise record, but the band’s really gonna have to pull something together next time to get me to listen.
Beacons_of_Ancestorship_coverTortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship; 2009
Thrill Jockey

My Rating: 39/100
Tortoise are one of the grand behemoths of post-rock, making almost-accessible experimental music for some fifteen or sixteen years now. Their first three full-lengths are testimonies to the power of sound, rife with inspiration and vision. Unfortunately, the band started to lose their way with STANDARDS, emphasizing the free-form influences of their jazz leanings over the structured instrumentalism of their earlier work. That didn’t ruin STANDARDS, which remains a pretty good record in and of itself, but it bears itself in full bloom on ANCESTORSHIP, their six full-length work. At this point the band seems completely different from the band bearing the same name in the 1990’s. Sure, there are interesting and pretty sounds here, but all in all the band seems to have simply lost the plot. I can’t really say too much beyond that. The songs just don’t have the power behind them to work their way into my head. Instead, BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP just sort of bounces off the cranial surface, heading into the abyss of space like radio static. Hope isn’t lost for another great Tortoise record, but the band’s really gonna have to pull something together next time to get me to listen.
TRACKS:
1. High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In (3/5)
2. Prepare Your Coffin (3/5)
3. Northern Something (3/5)
4. Gigantes (4/5)
5. Penumbra (3/5)
6. Yinxianghechengqi (3/5)
7. The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One (3/5)
8. Minors (3/5)
9. Monument Six One Thousand (3/5)
10. de Chelly (3/5)
11. Charteroak Foundation (3/5)