The music of My Education, a five-piece group from Austin, Texas, tends towards the classical side of the spectrum. If you’ve read any recent think-piece about how the lines between rock bands and classical ensembles are blurring, you could pretty easily swap their name into the list of case studies provided without sacrificing accuracy. Besides recording their own compositions, they’ve also released their take on Arvo Pärt’s taut “Spiegel im Spiegel” and collaborated with the hip-hop group dälek. The seven songs heard on Sunrise, their latest album, are taken from a soundtrack the band composed to F.W. Murnau’s silent film of the same name. Thankfully, these works function well on their own, removed from the context of flickering lights and moving pictures.
My Education’s music here varies from lush and intricate to a much more rock-oriented style. “City Woman Theme” in particular bridges this divide. It opens in an atmospheric mode, Sarah Norris’s vibraphone providing airy accompaniment, before the guitars kick in halfway through and shift the piece into a much more propulsive direction. As befits its title, “Peasant Dance” moves the most deftly, Chris Stelly’s drumming underlying a nimble string part that periodically gives way to broader, electric-guitar-led counterpoints. And “Heave Oars” is a solid example of textbook post-rock, wedding Rachel’s-like intricacies with dynamics that recall that subgenre’s more bombastic side.
The flaws that exist on Sunrise generally related to the group’s use of repetition. In some places, as on the title track, the accumulated ebbs and flows of one particular section eventually create a sense of something greater. “A Man Alone,” however, drifts hazily for six minutes, neither achieving the blissed-out state of the best drone nor upping the tension by opting for a noisier approach. It’s one of the rare places on Sunrise where the presence of Sunrise is felt – perhaps with its cinematic source on hand, moments like these would sound more assured. But even with the few missteps heard here, Sunrise remains a compelling album from an underrated group.