It’s quite easy to get lost in the debut album from Setting. The trio, consisting of Nathan Bowles (Pelt, Black Twig Pickers), Jaime Fennelly (Mind Over Mirrors), and Joe Westerlund (Califone, Jake Xerxes Fussell), began gathering in 2021 at Westerlund’s home in North Carolina. There they began to sculpt regular improvisations into longform works with more of a set shape. The resulting record is haunting, mesmeric, and engrossing. The four pieces on Shone A Rainbow Light On rise over the ridge, floating in the fog, but anchored by Westerlund’s percolating, polyrhythmic percussion. There’s a tension in many of the songs between the cosmic peace of Westernlund’s synths and harmonium — droning with a grey-light float — and the skitter of the beat beneath. On more than one occasion the record feels like sinking into the surface of the Earth, with the mind caught between racing panic and calm acceptance.
Between the poles of their patter and pulse, Bowles lends the strings of his banjo, playing as usual with a hammered intensity that’s lest ramble and more of a rake to the mind. The record reels between jazz forms, improv psych, drone, and folk. The band’s best moments happen when one or more of the genres seems to be happening at once. The record is entwined with the oscillation of natural vs. artificial, a friction between the environment and the invasive nature of those who inhabit it. There’s a feeling of seeking comfort and never finding it — a stasis that can never come because it’s the human at the center who is constantly throwing the system out of balance. That anxiety and friction is what make the record so vital — the itch and the ointment in one package.
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