Equals’ Post-Rock Soars


By Brian Audette

You can be forgiven for not knowing who Equals were before now. Even I had only happened on them by chance when they played Zlam Dunk’s final* show at Red 7 in late 2012. With only a single EP to their credit at that time, these atmospheric post rockers have since been stealthily playing shows around town and crafting their debut LP Tracts, set for release on May 6th, after which if you still haven’t heard of Equals, you’re likely to be in the minority.

Let’s face facts – the bar for post-rock bands in Austin has been set pretty damn high. After some notable prime time exposure in the mid to late 00’s, Austin post rock heroes Explosions in the Sky became synonymous with instrumental rock not just locally, but nationally, and acts like The Octopus Project and Balmorhea have found similar national appeal. There’s almost no way not to draw comparisons between these groups and up-and-comers like Equals; few bands are up to such a challenge. On Tracts, Equals prove they’re ready to fight, however, and they come out swinging with a nine song interstellar travelogue of an album that’s both contemplative and furiously driven at the same time.

The first half of Tracts reminds me of the understated natural tones of Austin’s Balmorhea, but trades the terrestrial sound of stately cellos and pianos for the cosmic echo of reverb-laden guitars and the starlight shimmer of synth. In this opening salvo, Equals traverse an extra-solar space that’s comparatively both familiar and alien. Opening track “Conveyor” sounds almost like an Octopus Project tune at times, with its mixture of analogue and digital instrumentation and its massive stack of layers, while “Glistener” and “Slab Avalanche” have that undulating feeling of traversing a landscape of gentle hills – except here it’s the gaseous clouds of a stellar nursery.

Tracts‘ second half is more forceful in its methodology, featuring a suite of powerful songs that juxtapose quiet reflection with dramatic urgency. Songs like “Rattle the Husks” and “Sweat House” rise and fall in manic, pulsing waves of guitar-fueled intensity. Other bands’ loftiest crescendos only ever reach the clouds, but Equals seem to have been born in orbit and travel along with the escape velocity momentum of pounding percussion and angular arpeggios. Closing track “Reality Always Disappoints” pulls us back from the speed of light and, utilizing twinkling guitars and synth, builds layer upon layer of repetitive rhythms that create a calming outro to this deep space voyage of sound.

On initial listen I was suitably impressed with Tracts and with each subsequent listen I’ve found more and more to love. As a debut full length, this album manages to forgo any semblance of amateurism in the playing, production, or mix and is instantly a force to reckon with. Perhaps most to their credit given the somewhat competitive realm of Austin post-rock, Equals intone a sound that is unique and fully realized, while echoing in familiar ways but never resorting to full on mimicry of those who came before. After listening to the album in full I can tell that it’s one I’ll still be talking about months from now. As far as their live presence goes, while I’ve only ever seen them that one time, I can honestly say that it was enough of a performance both in terms of live musicianship and sound that it made me go out and grab their EP immediately. With another year of playing under their belts and a roster of new songs to play, I’m willing to bet that Equals could be a live must-see wherever they show up.

Look for Tracts to be released on May 6th or pre-order now on the band’s store page.
Check out Equals at Empire Control Room this Friday, April 11th for their album release show.

*Zlam Dunk briefly reunited in 2014 for one last gig at Holy Mountain during Free Week.