Harmonic Motion: Volume 1 is the start of a Differential Records series aiming to bring together like-sounding instrumental groups.
The record starts off with "The Sound of Titans," a twelve minute atmospheric piece with several ups and downs in sound levels. For the most part, the song is more of the soundscape structure with picking, hypnotic guitars but, in its last third, it turns toward the big, dramatic finish that so many post-rock bands turn to.
The remaining four tracks from You May Die in the Desert are in the three-six minute range and feel more like math rock than tired post-rock, with heavier guitars, lots of time changes, and upbeat pacing. You May Die in the Desert is more Don Caballero than Explosions in the Sky.
Halfway through, the torch seamlessly passes from Seattle's You May Die in the Desert to Virginia's Gifts from Enola. Gifts from Enola follows the same formula but with a fuller guitar sound and less mathiness. With the absence of vocals on this record, it's easy to imagine hearing this and not realizing that it's a split CD if you're not paying attention.
Gifts from Enola works the post-rock angle. For the most part, they utilize the atmospheric approach without the epic crescendo that's become a trademark of the post-rock. "Still Walks the Streets" has some nice varied guitars that slowly shift moods while keeping concise at five minutes. As it bleeds into the next two songs it becomes that sort of post-rock that makes you feel like a stoner staring at a fuzzy TV - somehow mesmerized without really understanding why. When they take on longer tracks, such as the nine minute "Dusk Swallowed Dawn," the sound dynamics are utilized to build drama. Additionally, the song shows prog elements and I can almost image a flute playing along as Frodo and the gang scamper across the mountains.
I found the arrangement of the disc interesting, as it starts with You May Die in the Desert's longest track and end's with Gifts from Enola's longest, sandwiching the shorter ones in between. However, with the opener sets the wrong tone for You May Die in the Desert and, ultimately, this doesn't benefit the record.
In the end, Harmonic Motion: Volume 1 is a solid record, but the mere fact that it can't be played without evoking discussion of genre sets it back. Both bands are capable musicians and the record isn't bad listening - it just comes across as rather average.
6.6 / 10
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