How many post-rock albums can you name that start with the sound of ducks? Likely one, after today. St. Petersburg, Florida’s Set and Setting lives up to its name by providing landscape cues at the outset of its debut album, a follow-up to last year’s impressive 2-track, 28-minute Tour EP (now that’s post-rock!). Is a protagonist walking into a marsh where the post-rock lies? Are the trees alive with the sound of post-rock? The lovely cover portrays a warm, yet secluded site, a place away from the bustle in which the seeds of music might be planted.
As to the specific brand of post-rock, the closest cousin is probably This Will Destroy You, although the builds of Set and Setting are thankfully not as long. Pristine passages are followed by crashing crescendos, and the seven tracks blend together like a single work. It’s tempting to head directly to the pair of 13-minute tracks, but this would do the album a disservice; the power of these pieces is built upon what comes before. Not that the quartet is unable to pen smaller songs; the shortest clocks in at 2:10.
But let’s get back to the ducks for a moment. The opening passage is not the only place in which dynamic contrast makes an impact. “Fear of Obtainment”s interlude provides one of the album’s most effective passages, nearly dying, then churning. At the end, the human element re-enters. A person listens to a cassette sermon, ejects the tape, scrawls in pen, finishes a drink, writes some more, pushes a chair back and walks out the door. These sounds are is followed by the acoustic guitar of “Petrichor” and the enchanting piano, cello and violin of “New Age”, then bracketed by crickets at the opening of “The Truth of the Path”. By this juncture, one imagines the entire band holed up in the cabin by the lake, recording deep into the night.
For pure power, the strongest tracks are “Spiraling Uncertainties” and the final chapter, “Essence of Paradox”, which gets the nod due to the return of the strings. Up to this point, Equanimity has been restrained, but on this track, the restraints are off. Less than a minute in, it’s already rocking, and the energy level only increases from there. Metal riffs and reverberations create a wall of sound that is nearly impenetrable. Do the ducks like it? Probably not, lulled as they were into a false sense of security. But we like it, and hope Equanimity is the launch of a long career. (Richard Allen)