`How Strange Innocence' is Explosions in the Sky's debut album, recorded on 2000 on a minimal budget. On the band's endearingly honest sleeve notes to this re-release they state that the album has `no tricks' and confess to having had doubts as to whether it should continue to exist.
We can be glad that it does because this is a fresh, youthful and exuberant record, with a real lightness of tone. The production and mixing are basic but this is part of its appeal. All of the instruments are more distinct and the slightly uncertain playing and desire to please has a charm of its own.
The band's trademark sound is present here. Instrumental tracks, carefully crafted guitars both melodic and ferocious and bursts of dramatic percussion.
Stand out tracks are `Snow and Lights', a really uplifting piece with alternating loud and quiet guitars and superb staccato drum bursts and `Time Stops' where a gently melodic beginning leads to a furious finish.
Minor criticism would be that the album lacks any moment of stunning inspiration and does not possess the gravitas of later recordings. Also, the final track never really gets going. But on the whole the album is a very enjoyable listen. It lays the blueprint for further greatness to come and is firmly recommended.
This album is actually the first material that Explosions In The Sky recorded, and was distributed on their early tours. Before the band released the album however, they completed "Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever". Feeling the new material better represented them and, I'm led to believe, feeling slightly unhappy about the sound quality on "How Strange Innocence", they decided not to release the album. How delighted I am now that they have. Fans have had to make do with the mp3s from the original recording of this album lurking around the internet for years, but now the album has been remastered, dispelling any questions about the sound quality, and here it is. Early material it may be, but you'd never know it: this is some of the most beautiful "post rock" you are likely to hear, and I say that as a staunch fan of the Godspeed gang and their offspring. Excellently layered and textured, it creates the warm moods of dexturous guitar melodies one minute, and the next minute gives the urge to air-drum as the music builds to a furious climax. The dynamics are astounding; the graceful transition from two very delicate, intertwined guitar melodies to a distorted, frantic finish on the track "Magic Hours" has me reaching for my rewind button every time; the only thing stopping me listening to said track over and over again is the knowledge that the rest of the album is equally gorgeous. "Time Stops", another stand-out track, sees gentle interplay betwen guitars and cello dissolve into a fuzzed rock-out. To finish, the sublime "Remember me as a time of day" sees dreamy acoustic guitars echo into silence as the album comes to a close. I could write detailed praise about every track here; there is quite simply not a poor composition on the album. This album will obviously appeal to those who already know the band's previous releases, and you will not be disappointed. But it also serves as an excellent place to begin for people who have not heard the band before (Mogwai fans, you should most definately give this a listen). After all, this is where Explosions In The Sky started. Exquisite music from a very talented band.