My Education, A Drink for All My Friends

My Education, <em>A Drink for All My Friends</em>

With each release, it’s starting to feel like Austin instrumentalists My Education are drifting further and further away from where I’d had them initially pegged — namely, as a spacerock band, more than anything else, in the same vein as fellow Texans Explosions in the Sky or Co-Pilot. Skyward-pointing guitars, swooping melodies, spacey drones…that’s pretty much the deal, right?

Now that I’m listening to A Drink for All My Friends, though, I’m thinking maybe I’ve been wrong all along. The instro-rockers have always been quirky, particularly with their heavy (and excellent) use of strings, but looking back now I’m seeing more of a resemblance to Godspeed! You Black Emperor and all those Chicago post-rock bands like Tortoise, and I’m wondering how I couldn’t have seen it before now.

Beyond the post-rock thing, though, what My Education are really about is crafting music that’s cinematic, that evokes some kind of filmic image in your brain while it plays. Sadly, that’s often damn difficult to pull off, with those who try running the risk of creating what’s essentially bland, directionless elevator music.

My Education themselves came under fire for that very thing right here, in fact, with their 2010 release Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans; writer Daniel Yuan’s verdict was while the music was good, it didn’t really go anywhere and fell apart at times without the film to use as context.

Here, though, untethered from any actual film for which to write, the band has taken a big step upwards. The songs on A Drink for All My Friends flow beautifully in a low-key way, meandering across the landscape like a soft-focus art film — in fact, it almost feels like the band themselves have a “conceptual” film unreeling in their collective heads, and that’s what they’re writing to.

However they did it, it works a whole lot better than I’d expected it to. The album starts off elegaic and mournful with “A Drink…,” stepping slowly and deliberately through a room full of furtive, downcast eyes, but sister track “…For All My Friends” picks up the pace, becoming more menacing and active. When it really starts to rev up, it begins to resemble Co-Pilot’s The Course of Empire, albeit with a great, great violin, and then it turns a corner into an intense, paranoiac chase down dirty alleyways and back streets.

“Mr. 1986,” for its part, is lower-key and warm, gently evolving through several different drone-heavy motifs before exploding into distorted, thundering guitars and keys. Then there’s “Black Box,” which incorporates airplane/airport samples and fragile-sounding instrumentation, including what I think is a vibraphone (or maybe a xylophone?), and which doesn’t change pace very much, prefferring instead to just run straight on through to its eventual end.

The real surprise of the album for me, hands down, is “Roboter-Höhlenbewohner,” a strangely ’70s-sounding slab of rock that speeds along at a steady, edge-of-control pace while the guitars stab and stutter like they’re communicating in some kind of machine language. It’s driving and awesome, like ’70s prog-rock as interpreted by Mogwai; there are even some moments in here where the music sounds like Pink Floyd more than anything else, and hell, I’m happy for it.

Nearly 12-minute track “Happy Village” comes closest to what I’ve heard from the band before now, delving deep into Explosions in the Sky territory and coming back with lots of high-flying guitars, glacial-pace rhythms, a psychedelic washes of sound (in the latter part of the track, at least).

Then it’s back towards the retro-ish stuff with closer “Homunculus,” where My Education toss the rest aside in favor of a straight-up, bombastic, four-on-the-floor rock song. Well, okay, until the skronking, quasi-jazz horns come in, at which point I throw my hands up in the air and admit I have no idea what the fuck’s going on.

But hey, who cares? Spacerock, post-rock, psych-rock, instro-rock — the names don’t matter, in the end. All that really does is the mind’s-eye cinematic journey A Drink for All My Friends takes you on, and it’s a journey I’m eagerly looking forward to repeating.

[My Education is playing its CD release show 12/1/12 at Walter’s, along with Pleasure Shapes, Black Forest Fire, & Western Standards.]
(Haute Magie -- 5212 Downs Dr. #A, Austin, TX. 78721; http://hautemagie.com/; My Education -- http://myeducationmusic.com/; My Education (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/myeducationmusic; My Education (Myspace) -- http://www.myspace.com/myeducation)
BUY ME: Bandcamp

Review by . Review posted Saturday, December 1st, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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3 Responses to “My Education, A Drink for All My Friends

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Jonathan Coulton + The Manichean + My Education (Rev’d!) + Two Star Symphony + East End Toy Drive + More on December 1st, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    […] My Education (CD release)/Pleasure Shapes/Black Forest Fire/Western Standards @ Walter’s Talk about a cool lineup… I’ve been hot-and-cold on Austin instro-(post-)rock band My Education for a while now, honestly — some of their releases I’ve liked, while others damn near put me to sleep, and the two times I’ve seen them live it’s broken down about the same way — but new album A Drink for All My Friends manages to build a slew of evocatively cinematic “soundtrack” songs that are subtle and low-key but still beautiful and ever-moving. Check out the full review over here. […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Keep Calm//Fight Cancer (II) + Project Grimm + Funeral Horse + My Education + The Witherees + Chase Hamblin + More on September 7th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    […] and fonder of Austin orchestral-sounding instro-rockers My Education — and most recent album A Drink for All My Friends only cemented that love further — and part of why is their willingness to charge into things […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Co-Pilot + My Education + Lions of Tsavo + Funeral Horse + He’s My Brother She’s My Sister + Tyagaraja + Lone Star Rally + More on November 1st, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    […] with some gorgeous, delicate strings and almost cinematic arrangements; check out last year’s A Drink For All My Friends, and I would damn near guarantee you’ll be impressed. Plus, headliners PuraPharm are very […]

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