words by tom johnson
I’ve never been to the Pacific North West but I’ve often felt it. It’s hard not to, especially if you payed any attention to indie rock over the past couple of decades. An unboundaried area of the United States, nestled loosely between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascadia Mountains, the area has long been an musical sanctuary of-sorts, the lie of the land, the magic of the coast and mountains, lending influence first to traditional folk music and latterly to grunge and various alternative strands. More than the pocket of scenes that crop up in cities, the influence of the PNW is something different, more intangible and poetic, great waves of weather slowly reshaping the landscape over great passages of time.
Special Explosion, returning this week with their first new record in nearly four years, are one such band, their music indelibly shaped by the both the PNW and the bands that came before them. You can hear it beautifully, strikingly, on their bold new ‘To Infinity’ LP; in the space between the words, the roughness and the tenderness; in the the peaks and troughs, the hidden and the shaded corners that offer some respite.
Streaming in full below, a day ahead of its full release on Topshelf Records, their new work is both immediate and immediately powerful, taking its place among the upper echelons of 2017 releases, no mean feat given that it nearly didn’t make it at all. Recorded over the four painstaking, rocky years that they’ve been away, in various locations from their own homes to Modest Mouses’s Ice Cream Party studio, its creation coincided with personal fallout and deliberation, the band ceasing to function before they gathered up the reigns once more.
The result, even with such fresh eyes and ears, presents itself as detailed and impassioned masterpiece, the sprawling threads of influence – musically, personally, or otherwise – stitched in to something robust but weightily heartfelt; ‘tears that fall like rain on a sunny day,’ as they eloquently put it on the tender ‘Waterfalls’; the desire to be a little bit warmer than last year, a little better than the typical weather.
And so here they are: ten stirring, passionate, mountainous compositions that nearly didn’t make it but now enter the world, shaped by the lives that lived through them and the billowing weather that will carry them far further than the little pocket of land that continues to brood influence and endeavour; To Infinity, and far, far beyond.
‘To Infinity’ is released tomorrow, December 14th, via Topshelf Records
Pre-order it here