Caspian

Waking Season

Written by: DR on 06/12/2012 00:32:03

Perhaps more than most, it feels like post-rock has become a 'good-job genre'. Its structure is well established: quiet, lofty musicianship drawn out long enough to constitute being labelled a 'build up', which then swells to a loud, at times sudden, guitar-driven 'crescendo'. Laid down by some of the genre's biggest proponents, it's a well-tested format which few bands deviate from; however, in an increasingly congested field, it must surely be getting harder and harder for newer bands to differentiate, and ultimately establish, themselves. But of the post-rock bands born in recent years, Caspian have seemed one of the more likely to be lead astray from the beaten path by their curiosity and ambition. Their sophomore album, "Tertia", saw their aspirations step farther than their talent could quite keep up with, but it was a necessary segue between the straight-forward post-rock goodness of "The Four Trees" and their latest, and greatest, effort: "Waking Season".

With a combination of sincerity and progression, "Waking Season" is aptly titled in that it feels like a breath of fresh air for the genre. Rather than your typical dynamic of being serenely quiet then abruptly very loud, "Waking Season" flows rather like a river that's formed of many connected, overlapping rivers on a course into a glorious sea. Although the end result is often the same - usually a genuinely awe-inspiring crescendo - the method is different: various layers of instrumentation stretch beyond the typical realm of post-rock intertwine and continuously build on one another before reaching their apex. While the climaxes are a genre staple, and are to some extent even inevitable, what you cannot account for is how gorgeous and epic they actually are when they arrive. It's like the songs just grow and grow until you feel like your headphones cannot contain them - and they keep going even past that, often into the realm of the otherworldly. Moreover, Caspian do this not through over-reliance of the guitar, but have expanded their musical pallet as far out as acoustic, folk and electronic elements, and now seem to approach this with a mentality of using each instrument to add to the overall compositions as opposed to 'just' performing their expected, perhaps even rudimentary, roles.

In this progression, Caspian have helped off-set a few genre cliches. Usually, it's that loudness as the end of the song - that money-shot - that you're paying to hear. However, with a song such as "Waking Season", with it's constant current-like motion as it transitions from an introspective piano-laden opening to a grand, extroverted and stunning finish, is so exquisitely put together it could fit in the upper-reaches of Sigur Ros' work. The hypnotic droning hum of "High Lonesome" is a surprise gem, yet at only three minutes it seeps seamlessly into "Hickory '54", a sprightly tune which takes on its predecessor's angelic yet vacuous tones and moods, and then turns them back onto the listener with a soaring wall of sound in what is the one of the most uplifting moments of the record.

"Waking Season" isn't a success because of how it works around genre stereotypes; it's that it is so astutely calculated it knows when to play to them and when not to, in order to avoid exhausting an already tired format. The likes of "Procellus" and "Fire Made Flesh" have enough 'metal' throughout to recall the likes of Russian Circles and even Isis, but are dynamic and deftly executed enough to even stand toe-to-toe with them. "Gone In Bloom And Bough" is dangerously close to a typical post-rock song, because throughout a ten minute run-time it carries familiar elements of post-rock: sliding electronic effects, picked guitar riffs in the build up, effected vocals, a semi-crescendo in the middle followed by a perfectly paced decrescendo, ultimately concluding with an awesome explosion juxtaposing apocalyptic riffs and soaring violins. But it works because even as Caspian send you into space then down to the depths of hell and back again, all the elements of the song are essential to its perfectly judged narrative.

In seamlessly incorporating classic elements of post-rock with outside elements, through the filter of what seems like a fresh perspective, ultimately melting them all together and encapsulating everything good that the genre ever has been, is, and could be, Caspian have crafted one of the best instrumental rock albums of 2012, and even recent years. It's the kind of album which could be significant enough not to necessarily redefine the genre, but to prove you don't need to play so tightly to the confines of its worn path in order to have success within it. Caspian have finally realised their true potential; whether we look back on "Waking Season" as their masterpiece or them only just getting started will remain to be seen, but it's going to be exciting to find out which will ring true.

Download: Waking Season, Gone In Bloom And Bough, Hickory '54
For The Fans of: Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Blueneck
Listen: Bandcamp

Release Date 25.09.2012
Triple Crown Records

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