Sometimes music without words speaks the loudest. This is generally the case when it comes to the highly-publicized genres of post-rock and post-metal. Without vocals or lyrics at their disposal, artists lumped into these categories use instrumentation to craft conceptual narratives to elicit emotional responses from the listener. A challenging feat, most definitely, but one that pays off extraordinarily when accomplished.
Although its underlying concept is more complex than the usual romanticized melancholy often associated with post-rock, Set and Setting‘s Reflectionless still knows how to transport listeners to other realms and alter emotional states with its triumphant instrumental passages.
Armed with a thunderous rhythmic presence provided by two drummers, and guitars that can carve out canyons with their explosive attacks and lull listeners into tranquility with their gentle expressiveness, Set and Setting create a stunning addition to the instrumental rock canon.
While 2013’s Equanimity showed the band dipping their toes into the icy post-rock waters popularized by acts like Explosions in the Sky, and 2014’s A Vivid Memory mixed post-rock splendor with post-black metal stampedes and progressive psychedelia, Reflectionless is a potent blend of everything the Florida band has done to date, but with a greater emphasis on groove, post-metal grit and shoegazing atmospheres. The record is simultaneously the most dreamlike and heaviest set of material from the band thus far.
The record opens with the storming “Saudade”; a seven-minute powerhouse that showcases all of the band’s strengths. The track begins with a lumbering wall of kaleidoscopic sound that drapes over marching chords and soaring leads. The band then burst out of this colorful, metallic cloud with a barrage of blast beats and venomous, angular grooves. Soon the track becomes a violent, yet melodic struggle between shoegaze-infused sludge riffs and tremolo-picked, ethereal melodies that refuses to yield until the very end.
“Axiom Dream Within…” follows next with a steady, hypnotic crawl of hazy atmosphere and glacial guitar chords, which bleed directly into the beginning post-metal stomp of “…The Idyllic Realm”. This eight-minute, heavy and heart-wrenching tune begins with a melancholic procession of riffs that soon explode into a lengthy, tremolo-picked onslaught that equally punishes and soothes. A similar method is employed with the tracks “Specular Wavefront of…” and “…The Mirrored Self”. The former is an emotionally palpable post-rock slow-burner that bleeds into the latter’s intense battle between moody marches and complete sonic devastation.
Reflectionless strikes a near perfect balance between introspective atmospherics and bludgeoning heaviness. The more subdued post-rock meditations like “Eternal Pendulum” are almost always followed by a lengthier, multifaceted instrumental metal number like “Ephemerality”, and vice versa. Even within the longer compositions themselves, the band continually find a balance between serene beauty and outright destruction. Knowing when to serenade and when to crush is the band’s biggest strength on this record.
With a lot of post-rock and post-metal acts falling prey to the genres’ conventions, it is refreshing to see an act that carves out its own sonic pathway while still staying true to a genre or style’s roots. Set and Setting‘s style is not unfamiliar, but it is presented in Reflectionless in very interesting ways. Though bands like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You hold the top spots when it comes to instrumental rock, if bands like Set and Setting continue to pop up, that may not last for much longer.
Release Date: January 27, 2017
Label: AWAL/Science of Silence/Dunk! Records
Favorite Tracks: “Saudade” and “Ephemerality”
For Fans Of: If These Trees Could Talk, Caspian, pg.lost and Rosetta