Leave it to the sprawling landscapes of Texas to inspire an album that unfolds with the relaxed pace of a tall tale told at a campfire. With their fourth full-length, Bad Vibrations, Austin's My Education tell wordless stories without falling prey to the failures endemic to much instrumental post-rock. Their repetition is a slow build instead of a tedious drone, free of pretentious noodling, and the emotional palette is more nuanced than a simplistic "quiet equals lonely, loud equals angry." Instead, the album deals in mixed moods, giving its concepts time to reach fruition, with moments of tenderness and hope balancing out the occasional wrath.
Bad Vibrations opens with "This Old House," a plodding affair driven primarily by a combination of bass drum, viola, and strummed guitar. As with most of the album, this one doesn't climax so much as reach a logical conclusion, gently adding layers over the track's length (almost eight and a half minutes; only one song on the album comes in under five) before drifting back into silence. That confident patience allows songs to expand at their own unrushed pace. The viola adds some interest to the old quiet/loud/quiet dynamic—strings eventually give way to guitar squalls on "Arch" and "Britches Blanket," while "Aria" inverts the relationship with insistent viola dominating the fuzz. "Sluts and Maniacs" draws from both post-rock schools, starting with piano-led jazz-leaning groove (think Tortoise) before shifting to a guitarcentric wall of noise (think Explosions in the Sky) that, while it might not be the world's most epic, is one of few accompanied by vibraphone.
The album sunsets with the country-tinged title track, and the untitled hidden track merely brings the point homethe sounds of a crackling fire providing respite from the previous hour's pleasurable but emotionally taxing journey.