set and setting – “Equanimity”

Equanimity cover art

Artist set and setting
Album Equanimity
Genre Post-rock/Post Metal, Ambient
Buy/DL Bandcamp | Science of Silence
Web Facebook
Label Science of Silence
Release 6-04-13
Rating Very Good

At first listen, I was tempted to write St. Petersburg Florida’s set and setting’s “Equanimity” off as just another status quo third wave band.  I’m sure you’re familiar with this sort of thing by now…same old same old, not bad, but not much of a standout either. A sort of vanilla flavored post-rock malaise. Standard formulas repeated again and again. Background music. Hackneyed. However, I continued to delve and was rewarded with some truly magical moments and a very well done post-rock album.

 Surface level impressions are very easy to run with, especially when one listens to a metric shit ton of music, as I do. The sad truth is that plenty of good bands and albums get overlooked or nudged to the side because of this sort of ham-fisted style of critique. If not for the slightly higher standards that PostRockStar has set for itself, and those I feel obligated to satisfy within myself, this gem of a debut full length could easily have been a victim of that.

Thankfully it didn’t, because set and setting deserve better. Not only have they written a very compelling bunch of songs and raised the bar for non-“big name” third wave, but they have paid their dues as a live band as well, especially as of late.

 Classifying this album is a very pleasurable challenge.  It’s absolutely clear that they’ve been influenced by a myriad of musical styles. The pleasure comes in how this is so nicely reflected in the songs they’ve created. The straight ahead third wave is there, but it’s augmented some excellently done bits of buried drone throughout. “New Age” is a respite of warm neo-classical beauty. “Essence of Paradox” is a real tour de force of progressively devised post-rock/metal, with some very concise black metal–esque tremolo picked riffing, putting to shame similar experiments by many of set and setting’s peers.  The most standout track here is “Fear of Obtainment”. In my opinion this song embodies the entire aesthetic of the album, from highly nuanced third wave peaks and valleys to powerful post-metal pseudo-sludge grandeur, with the addition of field recordings and other “sound effects” It shows the true power of unspoken narrative that set and setting seem to do so understatedly well.  It is also worth noting that the follow up song, “Petrichor,” is one of the most minimal yet lushly beautiful intermissions I’ve heard in quite a while. All of the songs on this release tie together smoothly, with the shorter pieces almost feeling like gateways.

 Warmth and delicacy permeate the production values of “Equanimity.” In fact it’s almost sort of intimidating. Nothing is fragile, but everything is very delicate of spirit, like a special memory from a long time ago. Even when set and setting kick into the heavier sections they leave room for breath, which keeps the whole album sounding imbued with life. Instruments are clear for the most part, with the exception of some of the percussion high end being minimized in the mix at the heavier bits. It’s a pretty common problem when dealing with the frequencies inherent in downtuned guitar, multiply tracked, and it’s not over prevalent enough to put anyone off of the sound. The layering is excellent, and headphone listening will reward one with tiny nuanced moments of great happiness.

I’m impressed not only by the quality of “Equanimity,” but also by the enterprise of set and setting as a whole. They seem to have a plan, and they take advantage of the outlets available for spreading their music in intelligent ways. While this release isn’t a brain bashingly amazing world game changer, it has a great deal of skill and charm, is polished just enough to glisten, and sets a new standard for the possible future of third wave indie post-rock. Its nuance and warmth are it’s greatest features. “Equanimity” is most certainly well worth acquiring and enjoying.

 Full US/Canada tour dates here: