Concert Review: Explosions in the Sky, Adem, Mr. 1986 (October 17, 2004, Omaha, NE)

According to post-rock lore, a accompanied the live tape that got Explosions in the Sky signed to Temporary Residence, a note that said “This totally fucking destroys.” And after having seen them for the second time last night, I have to once again agree. Sure, the whole instrumental, quiet/loud, apocalyptic thing has been done to death by countless bands (my own included). But Explosions in the Sky can revive and breathe new life into that tired formula with just one guitar swell, one wall of feedback, one fiery climax — and do so again and again and again.

There’s something about this music — when done well — that I find cleansing. The pure walls of noise, slathered in guitar effects, that become so loud and piercing as to become an actual physical force. The climaxes that you can see coming from a mile away, and yet when they arrive, still do so with enough force to leave your head ringing. I can’t explain the sense of anticipation I felt when, all of a sudden, I realized that the shuddering cacophony the band was generating was going to be the lead-in to “Greet Death.” And when the song finally hit… I was all smiles, pure and simple.

Opening up the night was Lincoln’s own Mr. 1986, whose praises I’ve sung on the site many times before. Suffice to say, they did the hometown proud and brought some heavy thunder, including some new material that should available on Mr. 1986 soon.

As much as I enjoyed the other bands, the real surprise and delight of the evening was Adem. Although I’m not a huge fan of Fridge, I greatly enjoyed Four Tet’s last album, and my love affair with Fridge side-projects seems to continue with Adem Ilhan’s solo project.

Whereas Kieran Hebden employs all manner of laptop muckery in his work as Four Tet, Adem’s music is considerably more acoustic, employing all manner of instruments ranging from autoharps, glockenspiels, harmoniums, finger pianos, and all manner of percussion and bells. There was a delightfully relaxed vibe to Adem’s set, as if we were watching four friends get together for an impromptu jam session with everything and the kitchen sink while producing mellow, wide-eyed music that was simple and gorgeous in its naïveté and innocence.

There wasn’t a whit of self-awareness or pretension in any of Adem’s set… just pure, wholesome music made for the joy of making music. Normally, when a band sings songs about morning lullabies, or have giant, rousing singalongs to close out their set, my cynicism just starts racing. But Adem’s music was quite disarming in that respect, such that I simply gave into its simple charms without much of a struggle.

Between this and the Viva Voce show a few weeks back, I’m having a great concert-going month. Let’s hope the string continues.

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