Remember the first time you heard Tortoise’s TNT? How could anybody forget their aural initiation to those languid guitars, tripping over those paradoxically lush and frenetic rhythms? Think of all the doe-eyed teenagers who formed post-rock bands, hoping to somehow create something that even remotely emulated what they just heard.
Enter Equals. Despite their undeniable musical talents, technical proficiency, and knack for writing wholly listenable instrumental post-rock, Texas’ Equals are just one among a sizable herd. They’re also a little late to the party.
Their self-titled EP conveniently begins in a most similar fashion to TNT, with skittering drums that lock up with slippery fretwork, dragging and dancing in equal measure. Crafty rhythms carry palm-muted, polyrhythmic, mathed-out licks into a nod-able groove. It’s lush, it’s beautiful, it’s more than technically competent…but it’s also a little boring.
Consistent with the four songs that follow on Equals’ debut EP, from the get-go, the band’s primary goal is packing as many things into the space as possible: dueling guitar melodies, fractured drum fills, samples of water, buzzing, pulses, probably some animal noises. It’s highly technical, yet familiar art-rock. Think Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” interlocked fingerpicking holding hands with Reich-indebted, pulsing post-rock. Sounds good.
The issue with Equals, though, is that in a genre predicated on the technical prowess of its players, in order for the music to really be anything special, the compositions themselves have to really choke you into loving them (see: Battles). Here, there’s musicianship galore, but the songs themselves rely too heavily on solely the merits of their players instead of using those skills to create shocking and unexpected arrangements. There are a few of those moments, but too few. They dont hit hard enough, or really even explode.
We expect this level of musicianship, and it’s not enough to really make a case for why we should be listening to Equals over any other band producing near-identical sounding music.
Essential Tracks: ”Electric Blanket”