A more traditional breed of a non-traditional genre of music would equal an exponential form of non-traditional sound; could this be instrumental post-rock in all of its glory? My Education, a band born in Texas, has been expanding the post-rock scene with their near perfected skills and use of more traditional instruments. While almost anyone can enjoy a good post-rock album from time to time, and we all love the post-rock bands that use all of the tools available to blow our minds, there is something about My Education’s style that is more organic by nature and resonates deeper with our vegetable-minds. Each release over the past 17 years now seems to have stretched further in intensity towards either side of the spectrum; of being either soft and beautiful, or harsh and beautiful. Schiphol continues this expansion.
The album opens with “Intro,” naturally, which is a calm before the storm, a calm yet enticing ambient piece created by noise from an orchestra. That is then followed with “Open Marriages.” It is My Education’s refined structure takes hold here; acoustic post-rock with traditional instruments, coupled with modern drumming and bass styles. It has a rhythm that is heavy yet groovy, like a marching band covering a 70’s stoner metal song. The song builds into a post-rock battle scene, but instead of taking place in space or in the sky, it feels more like a march into battle on Earth.
The band doesn’t shy away from the softer side of the spectrum, and because of that the album has its less intense tracks. “Class A” is a more minimalistic track, with an acoustic guitar repeating arpeggios, the drums taking a walk, keys setting the higher backend atmosphere, and the violas sing above all of that. Seven minutes and forty-eight seconds of introspection, the track does not have a fine line between having the atmosphere of happiness, sadness, loss, hope, etc., but it bleeds with building intensity throughout. Another, less minimalistic and more complex, softer track is “Grey An.” The amount of emotion should weigh this track down somewhat, but they were able to give it a diaphanous quality, as if Belle & Sebastian teamed up on this one. The drums, bass, and guitar set the stage, and the violas tell their story. It lasts over seven and a half minutes, but is nevertheless a truly beautiful song.
My Education uses their sonic story-telling abilities to play out the tale of “Krampus,” an eight-minute track of a fierce retelling of the original folklore.
It begins soft and light, whimsical almost, and builds with the drums picking up the pace, the guitar working harder, the keys are more pronounced, and the violas sound almost psychotic. Then the song breaks right at its halfway point. The keys drag out as an organ in a haunted house style theme, then there is distortion on the bass that rumbles in, the drums join and the whole rhythm section is in full blast. Then the trebles all join in and freak out. It is like an organ driven post-rock cover of a Penderecki score. There are times when traditional instruments and music of folk and classical style sound more brutal than any modern rock or metal can muster up, and “Krampus” bridges that gap.
Schiphol shows that My Education is perpetually expanding their sonic capacity for cinematic, textural, and natural post-rock. The precision of each tempo change, each instrument choice, every decision of which frequency, etc.: Schiphol is a masterpiece of production quality. Although the production quality is pristine, this album feels like their most raw work yet, and hopefully there is more to come.