Caspian – Waking Season (2012)

4th feature length LP from Post-Rock outfit Caspian, Waking Season

I guess I give Post-Rock more stick than it deserves sometimes; half of the time I feel like bands are just treading well explored ground ala Sigur Ros and GY!BE, and the other half I feel like the music doesn’t belong to the genre at all. It’s a bit hit and miss for me really, and when in my background reading I saw comparisons between Caspian and GY!BE it gave me motive to pause and put it off for a little while.

Unlike the mighty and seemingly infallible GY!BE, however,Caspian do something which I greatly appreciate within this genre; bitesized tracks. With the exception of two, most of this album falls around the 6 minute mark and in doing so prevents the melodic wankery going too far. Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with having long tracks of course, but they can feel very cumbersome and demanding sometimes.

Title and opener “Waking Season” is perfectly titled; awakening from a drone haze it opens its eyes, ready for a new day. The morning has started, the sun is rising and if you strain you can just hear the birds tweeting; it’s bright, optimistic and hopeful for what’s to come. “Procellous” starts abruptly- we don’t have time to mess around in the mornings- with its initially unassuming reverbed guitar work and choppy vocals but it soon picks up and gets rather animated in its riffs and percussion before dying away to some very delicate piano. It’s like a whole 20 minute Godspeed track in 6!

It welcomes in the stunning 10 minute “Gone In Bloom And Bough”, one that builds slowly, almost excruciatingly from a fantastically simple guitar riff into increasingly intelligent and complex textures, all of typical post-rock origin. Buried vocals just about carry on the wind; not sufficiently to be heard but enough to be appreciated for their emotional delivery. It’s very much in the vein of Hammock, especially the second half which relies a little more strongly on acoustic guitar layers before throwing itself back into another ridiculous build.

Delicate piano underlies the somewhat abrasive and certainly more uptempo “Halls of the Summer” which is nicely counterbalanced by the lightweight “Akiko”, something more akin to an electroacoustic track (also seen some people consider this to be more ambient but I think that is something of a stretch, even if it does terminate peacefully with some baby laughter). Again, what is and is not considered Post-Rock is a confusing topic and I don’t think I will ever understand.

But whoa, “High Lonesome” is on its way in on a rising wall of feedbacked guitar and vocal coos, growing strongly and slowly and infiltrating every crack and crevice with its beautifully precise atmosphere, one that invokes images of a countryside slowly being revealed as the Sun burns the morning mist away as it segues effortlessly into the rhythmic drums of “Hickory ’54” and its tinkling xylophone. Once again that hopefulness returns but this time with a more youthful and somehow innocent sound with its more delicate tones.

Ambient and Drone certainly do have their influences, I wont deny, and they come to the fore especially strongly on the penultimate “Collider In Blue”, which runs in a similar vein to “High Lonesome”, but acts as more of a brief interlude than anything else at only 2 1/2 minutes long, welcoming the final act “Fire Made Flesh”. There is something of a menace in the continuing drone, the shuddering electronic beats and the mysterious and ethereal vocals that makes it feel like something big and bold is about to occur, and while it takes perhaps 4 minutes or more to materialise it hits hard, throwing out very metal influenced guitar riffs and super dense textures that just rise and fall and overlap in a temptingly random yet perfectly executed manner. The curtains finally fall and the album departs with a parting blast of noise.

In many ways what Caspian bring to the table is novel and interesting but I just can’t shake the fact that Post-Rock never seems to do anything fundamentally different. People say that there have been Post-Rock “waves” and this is probably true, but in each of them it feels like there have always been a few key artists to pioneer sounds and everyone just gravitates around them. I kind of have a problem with a genre that limits its scope to such a degree and despite their attempt at diversifying, I just can’t help but feel pretty uninterested in this release by and large.