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Shone a Rainbow Light On Daniel Hignell , September 15th, 2023 08:01

Featuring members of Mind over Mirrors, Sylvan Esso, and Pelt, an album of organic drones full of subtle confidence, finds Daniel Hignell

Any album that heavily features a harmonium is an automatic winner in my book, and Shone a Rainbow Light On undoubtedly makes the most of its innately pleasing instrumentation. The sort of record for which the phrase ‘organic drones’ was built, Setting have produced a beguiling, earthen record that slots neatly into the pantheon of meandering new-age ambiance. A sort of less ostentatious, less cheesy take on Popol Vuh. The album is reminiscent of some of the more obscure instrumental records on the Constellation label, conjuring a world that is neither as minimal as drone nor as lively as kraut-rock, a passive, repetitive, slow-burning folk aesthetic.

The caliber of its players is a pretty good gauge of just how well executed the whole affair is. The band comprises members and associates of groups like Mind over Mirrors, Sylvan Esso, and Pelt – and if Setting sound right at home on such a list, Shone a Rainbow Light On arrives with a certain creative docility, a mite more lethargic and wayward than you would expect. Opener ‘We Center’ offers nearly fourteen minutes of the slowest slow-build, limping through rhythmic scrapes and the endless drone of the aforementioned harmonium, before arriving at its peak, little more than a rather beautiful mud hill, its crescendo still as mellow as many similar tracks start out.

‘Zoetropics’, perhaps the most straightforward track on the album, fires through an upbeat minimalism of plucks and strums, a cyclical, somewhat predictable scamper through its performative monotony. In contrast, ‘A Sun Harp’ throws in a wonderful dose of experimentalism, a prism of scattered piano arpeggios and drawn-out, warbling chords that builds in complexity and erraticism until it arrives at the spiritual free-jazz of Don Cherry, a burst of energy immediately followed by the dirge-like hesitancy of ‘Fog Glossaries’, as tentative and restrained as it is brilliant.

Richly textural and delicately performed, Setting exude a lingering warmth, their edges softened as if left out in the sun. It’s lethargic in all the right ways, untroubled by the need to shock or surprise its audience – and yet surprise it does. I found myself perpetually revisiting different parts, uncovering new layers in its fabric, drawn back to some aspect so understated that I had all but ignored it on first listen. As a debut album by a trio of musicians with a long history of producing not entirely dissimilar work, Shone a Rainbow Light On manages the unusual trick of improving, if not exactly reinventing, the collective wheel. It is a work that revels in a curious lack of drama, defined by the subtle confidence of collaborators operating at the height of their craft.