The Earth Is A Man – The Earth Is A Man
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: February 15, 2011
While I consider myself an ardent fan of post-rock, even I’m willing to admit that not all there is of the genre is gold. Many bands fall into the pitfall of going for atmosphere alone and completely eschewing any forward movement. As a result, those who invest too much faith in dreamy production and not enough in their songwriting cross the line from profound to pretentious.
Illinois-based post-rock group The Earth Is A Man impresses with their self-titled LP in that regard—and in just about every regard, really. The songs here are never sedentary but constantly evolving and building, and just when things sound like they’ve settled, the band will pull the rug out again and send everything scrambling. Not to say that this is ever fluff, either: the production, instrumentation, and songwriting all contribute to setting the stage for one of the most dramatic sonic battles of the year.
Opener “Dymaxion” barely slides under the five-minute mark, yet its depth and sweeping warmth achieve what most bands can only pull off in ten. A mix of the relaxed vibes of El Ten Eleven and the intricate layering of Enemies, it appeals to both the emotional and the cerebral compartments of our heart, both a knotty rhythm exercise and an earnest waking song. Amusing name aside, “You Might Have A Moustache” nudges the door open a little bit more. The guitars don’t just complement here, they converse, each challenging the other to top its latest motion until the band outright stops playing. Without warning, the song shifts into sudden death mode, drums rollicking and egging on the two contestants. That’s not all; the third movement reprises the themes introduced in parts one and two while sending them higher and higher to a boiling climax.
The defining characteristic of the songwriting here is yin and yang. Neither exists without the other. The quiet passages of songs like “Soft Reset” constantly feel like they’re on the verge of tipping over and completely unraveling, while the intense peaks they inevitably build up to--like the climax of the excellent “Papi (Da Shra)”--are designed so that they could collapse at any given moment; the compromise between the two extremes is uneasy, but the tension between the players and the completely organic flow portrays both ends of the spectrum beautifully.
Even when things wind down, the band holds just as a strong captivation over its listeners. “Ruby Boo” is a rare moment of calm in a whirlwind of a set, and it’s just as beautiful as anything that’s preceded it. Its follow-up, the rousing “Trophy”, makes up for it, but while it lasts, it’s a lovely, slightly wistful moment to reflect before we’re thrust back into the mountains.
Too often, intelligence and emotion are treated as a dichotomy in many different ways: in debates, in testing, and often in post-rock music as well. What The Earth Is A Man proves is that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s a complex yet resonant and uplifting experience, and best of all, it’s restored my enthusiasm for what this genre represents at its height.
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