Explosions In The Sky / Lanterns On The Lake @ Brixton Academy 27.01.12

US post-rock titans and atmospheric UK indie quintet on scintillating form in the capital

Jan 27th, 2012 at Brixton Academy, London / By Caitlin McAllister
Explosions In The Sky / Lanterns On The Lake @ Brixton Academy 27.01.12 With a soft glow from the stage, the black ceiling and many tiers that make up Brixton Academy give the illusion of an open air venue. This, coinciding with the ambient sounds from Lanterns on the Lake, makes for an almost mystic, dreamlike show. All six members of the band look eager and ready, and genuinely grateful as the crowd praise them into their opening song. Lead vocalist Hazel Wilde is thankful, and modest without being shy, however she is more alive and animated shaking her blonde hair around on guitar than when addressing the audience. Her weightless vocals are delicate but full of passion and attentiveness, complemented perfectly with backing vocals by guitarist Adam Sykes. Making up the atmospheric sound of the evening also includes Paul Gregory on guitar, Brendan Sykes on bass, Sarah Kemp on violin and Oliver Ketteringham playing percussion, synth and piano – a very multi-talented band indeed, especially considering its members are forever switching instruments, playing each other’s instruments and playing the same instrument together.

From two drummers thundering out impressive drum solos at once, to Paul Gregory playing his guitar with a bow, it can all get very confusing at times, but makes for a truly captivating gig. ‘Lungs Quicken’ and ‘Not Going Back to the Harbour’ are undoubtedly the best songs of the night, bringing Wilde’s vocals and the distinguishing indie folk sound together with electronic undertones and an alternative rock breeze blowing through. Their sound is akin to the sweeping songs of the likes of Massive Attack, the Cinematic Orchestra and headliners Explosions in the Sky. The Newcastle-upon-Tyne natives easily win over every old and new fan in the audience with their humbly passionate performance, respectfully earning their place as the opener for Explosions. It could be argued that at most gigs the support act does not hold a candle to the headlining band; however the same cannot be said about Lanterns on the Lake, who came to impress and succeeded.

The anxious crowd wait for Explosions in the Sky to appear onstage after a short break, slightly confused by the single microphone left onstage after Lanterns on the Lake’s set. For a group of musicians renowned for having no vocals present in their music, the microphone is mysterious, but soon used by the band to receive the audience’s intense admiration and express thanks before beginning a ninety minute set of symphonic post-rock.

The Texas four-piece do not rely on expressive lyrics, rather cinematic, sweeping instrumental compositions that derive from rock and pop styles. It is an unusual type of gig. Young people one might assume to be heavy rock fans standing next to an older audience, all open-mouthed and intense listening to the incredible sound fill the huge theatre-style venue. Intricate guitar work and emotional stage presence from the band makes it a cathartic and almost therapeutic night, with not one lull in the music from start to finish. ‘Last Known Surroundings’ and ‘The Moon Is Down’ are some of the most significant songs of the night for an approving audience, with the dramatic ‘The Birth and Death of the Day’ generating the most praise after a giant roar of recognition at the shimmering intro.

As with Lanterns on the Lake, some impressive instrumental skills are displayed including two drummers lashing away at the one drum kit, impressive and fascinating considering they have an hour and a half to entertain without vocals. With just Munaf Rayani, Mark Smith and Michael James on guitar, Michael James doubling as a bassist and Chris Hrasky on drums, it would seem impossible to create such a vibrant and dynamic sound. They do though. And even more so, they do it without stopping for breath. Brixton Academy is entrancing for the night, with help from the lightshow which complements the music perfectly. For any fan of instrumental music, or even cinema soundtracks, Explosions in the Sky are faultless.