My Education are no strangers here at Somewherecold. We first covered them in 2005 with the release of their album Italian and have been fans ever since. Schiphol is their eighth full-length album. It spans nine tracks of gloriously written post-rock by this seven-piece band. For those unfamiliar with My Education, they are an Austin, TX based band consisting of Brian Purington (guitars), Chris Hackstie (electric & pedal steel guitar), Earl Bowers (drums), James Alexander (viola), Kirk Laktas (keyboards), and Scott Telles (bass). From the “Intro” all the way to “Reprise (Coordinates)”, My Education grabs the attention and enthralls with Schiphol as peaks and valleys continue to unfold throughout the storied compositions.
“Intro” sets the mood for the entirety of the album with a deep drone, weeping strings, and sparse percussion as cymbals swell and fall. There are a lot of layers in this very short and deceptively simplistic piece. And then “Open Marriages” begins. This is a song I cannot stop listening to because it is so beautiful, the hooks so addictive, and the composition perfectly written. I could express how impressed I am with every instrumental line and choice in this track, but that would be an entire review in and of itself. Let’s just say that “Open Marriages” is a post-rock tour de force and is a complex song that builds on incredibly well-written parts that paint a gorgeous soundscape when they come together. It is driving in parts and very peaceful in others, giving the listener musical hills and valleys to explore throughout the sonic landscape.
“Coordinates” comes into the speakers without a break as the hum of a guitar brings about the transition and then sampled voices and long drawn out viola notes sing out. Beautiful synths dot the soundscape while guitars weep in the cracks and crevices. Percussion and drums are sparse and patient. The bassline and keys really play off each other here as guitar and viola create walls of sound that occupy either speaker. At about 4:24, the strings really kick in and take center stage and then the band erupts into a giant release. “Coordinates” is the longest piece on the album and the variations, the emotive moments, and lush soundscape prove this to be an epic long-form piece. “Class A” begins with a very different feel, with a melody being picked on an acoustic guitar. The light drums and bass undergird beautifully mournful viola as they begin to join the acoustic. The melody is stunning and the band plays with it throughout as keys join in and volume begins to build ever so slightly as the track moves forward. About half-way through, the guitars begin to soar. Eventually, the band peels away again and leaves the acoustic guitar and viola to finish this moving piece.
“Krampus” begins with acoustic guitar that flitters about in your speakers, playing with the pan and then deep, almost ominous guitar comes into the speakers. The bass work here is bright, contrasting with more ominous melody. The viola is also bright, as it sits prominently in the mix, creating a hopeful atmosphere. Then the band breaks out into an organ driven section that has an almost Mediterranean feel. There is an adventurous feel here that is cinematic in nature. At about 3:50, the organ and percussion remains as the toms beat a tribal thrall and then guitars begin to fuzz out and roar. Perhaps Krampus has arrived to take all the naughty little kids. “Krampus”, a rather aggressive rock piece in places, is followed by “This Time Let’s Rock”, which begins with mellow electric guitar and slow percussion. At about 1:20, the composition takes a turn into more ominous territory as a minor key tone begins to encompass the band and the guitar squeals out foreboding tones. There is a back and forth here as the brighter, more hopeful tones compete with the more threatening, minor key moments in the track. The contrasts are brilliant and effective.
“Grey An” has acoustic guitar once again, beautifully played viola, accents from either synth or guitar, and bass and drums that really guide and glue the group together. Overall, it’s one of the quieter moments on Shiphol with a meditative feel to it. “Reekei Plume-Plucked Minnow” begins without pause with feedback and a droney hum. Warm, full ambient noises fill the speakers as dazzling sonics peak out from the soundscapes. This ambient piece is just gorgeous and evocative, with layers for the listener to explore with every new listen. This leads into the finale to the album “Reprise (Coordinates)”. This short piece is an outro to the album and plays on the melodies from “Coordinates” earlier in the album. The viola work here is breathtaking with the guitars weeping overtop while a dancing melody is played on the piano.
With instrumental music as their tool, My Education are indeed master storytellers. In Schiphol, they have created a grouping of cinematic, post-rock compositions that evoke emotions in the listener. From quiet, contemplative moments to rousing swells of explosive rock, My Education proves once again that they ought to be considered among the greatest of the post-rock bands. Schiphol will be released on March 3, 2017.