Like any other genre, post-rock encompasses a vast array of spin offs and variations. From the math centric to the ambient, the challenge for those of us with a need to categorize falls in the realm of discovering the correct word to depict both what we hear and how it makes us feel. I’ve never necessarily been a fan of sticking genres labels to bands since the process seems to be fairly relative from person to person. One listener’s post-rock is another person’s indie. However, without descriptors an album review renders itself pointless. Fortunately for me, Seattle’s Compass & Knife is incredibly proficient at getting right to the point.
Compass & Knife’s newest release, The Setting of the Old Sun, is skillfully written, masterfully performed, and down right good. The quartet of polished musicians take little time to introduce themselves musically and for those looking for a straight forward, what you hear is what you get record, The Setting of the Old Sun is perfect. From short ambient intros and bridges to uptempo, in your face choruses, the guys of Compass & Knife deliver a fantastic array of musicianship that is easily digested yet intriguing enough for more than one listen.
The eight song, almost entirely instrumental album was released on November 17th, 2015, and in a short amount of time was able to garner enough respect to receive some album of the year recognition. These accolades are absolutely deserved and appropriately administered as it’s blatantly obvious real thought and care went into the production of this record. What makes this even more impressive is the fact they self-produced and self-recorded this album.
Some listeners might not take the time to explore the production notes of this album, but as someone who produces and records his own band, I can attest to the challenges and frustrations this process presents and am always curious to see who was behind the board. When self-producing and self-recording, not only will your band be on trial for it’s writing aptness, but your ability to capture your band’s sound and present it as a finished product will also face relentless scrutiny. While this approach is extremely fulfilling it can also be painstaking. I don’t know how many times I’ve mixed my own music until my ears could no longer discern one guitar from the next. When revisiting the final product months later, I’ve found myself wishing the snare was a decibel louder or that I’d cleaned up some mids in the guitars. Thankfully, bassist Austin Patterson and guitarist Jordan Brokaw did a fantastic job producing and recording The Setting of the Old Sun and should be sleeping very well at night.
While each song is worthy of attention, the album’s finale, “Drowned in Desire”, clearly surpasses it’s predecessors. Compass & Knife saved the best for last and exceeded my expectations by putting together an incredibly well thought out, well executed music video to showcase both their musical prowess and their conceptual capacity. As we enter into an era where anyone can shoot a music video on their iPhone, it’s absolutely motivating to see a band put together an impressive visual to accompany their music.
Instrumentally based music is inherently open ended and it’s usually up to the listener to piece together their own storyline since no lyrical content exists to steer the narrative. While “Drowned in Desire” can still be interpreted as the listener chooses, the music video adds a deeper dimension to the song that made me appreciate and enjoy the song even more. And, once again, the fact that they filmed and edited the video themselves will forever keep Compass & Knife at the forefront of my list of remarkable, noteworthy DIY bands.
For anyone looking for a great album to put on the stereo while working, or for a soundtrack to accompany a road trip, I highly recommend Compass & Knife’s The Setting of the Old Sun.