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Published: 2004/01/27
by Chris Gardner

The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place – Explosions In The Sky

Temporary Residence Records 61

The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, the most recent effort from this

Austin-based, all instrumental quartet, convinces itself time and time again

that this titular statement is, in fact, true. It is an album that seems to

build itself up, pull itself down and rise from its own dusty remnants every

few minutes. It doesn't shy away from clattering, dissonant, often

devastating moments of tumbling gravity, but then the drums fall out, the

guitars chime together in opposite channels, and something starts to stir

under the rubble. It seems at all times to be making a statement. It feels

important and somehow instills that sense of importance in the listener. It

matters in ways most music merely strives to matter.

Its only defect seems to be that it opens so perfectly. "First Breath After

Coma" begins in a convalescent bliss. Guitars chime in fading loops as a

heartbeat emerges. Slow waves of awareness wash in as the guitars weave in

and around each other, building toward the surface. The first shift (the

first breath) comes at the 2:30 mark with a beauty that gives one pause.

You feel it in your chest. It surges briefly before submerging again at the

4:30 mark, exhausted by the push toward consciousness. It recoups, with the

heartbeat returning minutes later as the tune crackles to a close and fades

into the next track. It is hard not be hyperbolic. It is, quite simply,

exquisite, and sets a watermark the album rarely achieves again.

"The Only Moment We Were Alone," which follows, comes closest (completing,

incidentally, a nearly perfect album side). The composition is again more

careful than intricate, with each note meticulously placed. The drums tend

toward beats rather than rhythms. Shakers rattle in the corners. Cymbals

wash against the walls. The drums stomp with giant feet and march

insistently, offering tick-tock pulses and simple snare patterns that

abruptly fall into silence. The band rides these surges, nearly dying

around the seven-minute mark and crashing into full clatter a minute and a

half later. They master time so easily though, ebb and flow so organically,

that the numerical landmarks seem immaterial. The music follows its course,

does what it must do, processes inevitably from note to note.

This record, in short, encourages one to write foolishly as I have done. It

makes you believe that music matters, that a chiming guitar and a well-miked

drum kit can instill hope, that an album-side can alter the course of your

life, that all you need is a diamond needle and a good pair of headphones to

get through, that you can crawl out of any hole, that you can dig your way

out of the rubble, that brief moments of bliss can sustain you, that whether

you are adrift in a coma or submerged "Six Days At the Bottom of the Ocean"

you will rise, that we will rise, that the Earth is not a cold, dead place,

that the Earth is not a cold, dead place, that the Earth is not a cold, dead


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