Constrained to one idea
Animalweapons’ eight-song project titled, Set of Constraints understands the genre and stylistic feel it’s going for within its run time. There is no adjustment or deviation from this style, and what is demonstrated within the opening track, “Check Engine,” is what you get throughout the project. The record shifts between interludes and vocal performances within the setlist of songs, and while the track order makes sense and has some intention, it’s too bland to matter.
“Check Engine Light” highlights the good in Set of Constraints. Introducing vocals that similarly match that of Rüfüs Du Sol, these vocals mix nicely with the ambient synths. The track develops the groundwork for what the rest of the project sounds like. There is an airiness and electronic atmosphere in “Check Engine Light,” which is only further complimented by the lyrics and vocal performance.
“DST (Wreath)” is an example of the singularity within Set of Constraints. There is a lack of creativity in this track, as rather than introducing a fresh mix of electronic sounds, it adds four minutes of forgettability to the thirty-two-minute run time of the project. That is to say, most of the instrumentals in Set of Constraints fail to excite, develop or introduce different aspects to the project. An example of this is in the track “Deserve,” which chooses to put instrumentation at the forefront and vocals secondary. “Deserve” has a repetitive angsty lyrical tone, questioning self-worth that comes off as corny and sad instead of meaningful. The instrumentation doesn’t match the attempt at any emotional meaning and falls flat.
That isn’t to say that all instrumentation fails within Set of Constraints. “August,” “Set of Constraints” and “Summer’s Over” all stand above the rest, as they aren’t singular or simplistic in their craft. “August” holds itself to introduce a dance atmosphere with soft bass and shakers, diverting attention more into the layers of sound, something that “DST (Wreath)” fails to do. “Set of Constraints” brings back the wispy tone of “Check Engine Light” while being different enough to notice. Where “Deserve” builds no tension or meaning to its lyrics, the ever-changing additions to “Set of Constraints” show Animalweapon’s purpose within the project. There is some sadness and emotion within the last two tracks that felt lacking previously. “Summer’s Over” is the standout song within the project, not only because it deviates from ambient sound, but it’s stripped to sound genuine. There is no distortion and little electronic emphasis, the vocals build vulnerability along with the gorgeous piano.
It’s a shame the project doesn’t show more of this complex writing and performance. The singularity in tempo and style doesn’t let the concepts on Set of Constraints shine as much as they should. While the vocals help the atmosphere develop over time, there isn’t enough to compel its audience. Set of Constraints might fit for those looking for the particular sound kept throughout its eight songs, however, it just can’t be helped to want more of a connection to what is presented.