Caspian - Waking Season
It's safe to say that a new Caspian should be on every post-rock fan's radar, and since their latest album (their third) was announced in July, there's been a groundswell of anticipation that is now reaching fever pitch. No wonder: it wasn't too difficult for the Beverly, MA-based group to follow up an album widely hailed as a masterpiece. Indeed, both said album, The Four Trees and its successor, Tertia, are still held in high regard and have aged brilliantly. They create sweeping, cinematic music that, for a while, had placed them on a different level to that of many of their peers. As the release of their first album in 3 years approaches, the question must be raised: have they managed to uphold that standard? Doing so at the expense of artistic growth would have been the easy option - hell, I'd take Caspian on autopilot over most of their contemporaries any time of the week - but the quintet have never been known to do things by halves, and their newest opus is no exception.
The hallmarks are there, of course, but it takes a while for any of them to rear their head. The opener, the album's title track, finds the group coming over all ambient, ushering in Caspian V3.0 with the sound of howling wind, before a plaintive piano melody eases the listener into things. The arpeggiated guitar line that the song's built on doesn't kick in until around a minute and a half, and the song continues to build from there, growing to the point at which more obvious post-rock groups would allow it to explode... but no. It runs straight into 'Procellous', and a tremulous riff takes over, revealing a new, even more atmospheric side to the band than we've previously experienced. That song sees them make a point of move away from the stereotypical post-rock sound, yet retains their dazzling melodic and technical skills, warping song structures and giving their new creations plenty of room to breathe.
Their new album is both an evolution of, and a considerable step away from, their old sound. It takes serious guts to shove in a 10-and-a-half-minute song as your third track, but there are staggering levels of beauty expressed on 'Gone In Bloom And Bough', which many bands of this ilk strive to attain, but often fall flat in doing so. Not every song is of ponderous length, though: 'Akiko' is arguably the most immediate thing on the album, exploring the band's new-found ambient side with elegance and grace, ensuring that a new avenue has opened up for the band to explore. Who knows, LP4 could be their 'ambient' work, and on the evidence of the new direction taken by the band, that would be just as brilliant as what's gone before. There are also times when the band employ searing guitars and driving rhythms, becoming more of a post-metal act than anything else, as on closer 'Fire Made Flesh', a song which switches gears halfway through, undergoing an extremely well-executed transformation from sedate to apocalyptic. It seems to come as if from nowhere, and is quite a fitting end to an album which is full of surprises but is still Caspian-esque. They've changed - more subtly in some ways than others - but don't worry: that standard of theirs is definitely still intact.