Most instrumental post-rock goes into one ear and out the other, rarely earning much more than a “Wasn’t that pretty!” comment from me. I can appreciate the talent that goes into writing songs of this nature – arrangements, part construction, production value, etc. – but it’s never been quite my cup of tea. So, in order for me to want to take the time to write a review of a post-rock record, there has to be something special about it, something that elevates it beyond sounding like Explosions in the Sky copycats.
Co-Pilot has certainly achieved that with The Course of Empire, as the record touches upon everything that I like to hear from this genre and then pushes those musical ideas into fun and interesting places. Sure, it’s easy to detect the EITS influences, but I prefer the rich textures of Russian Circles, By the End of Tonight, and Caspian that have been subtly woven into the mix. Shimmering guitar tones transform into crunchy metal power chords, all while math-inflected time signatures and breakdowns ramp up the edge, heart, and heft of the project.
As opposed to the typical “quiet-loud-quiet-loud” setup you hear with most post-rock anthems, this Houston, TX outfit demonstrates a profound appreciation for deft shifts in dynamics. The band exhibits a dexterous approach to music-making that is powerful and compelling – you will want to play this music quite loudly so that you hear all the nifty nuances on display.
Though “Land Empires” and “Broken Shield” best exemplify the talents of Co-Pilot, the overall effect is that these five songs congeal into a single song cycle. The group knows exactly when to reach for the sky, when to pull back for effect, how to get dirty, and when to turn on the charm. Think of The Course of Empire as a beautiful flower – the petals are lovely to gaze upon, but the sharp thorns and prickly leaves will stick you when you least expect it. This is post-rock that I’d be happy to play on a regular basis.