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What we’re listening to: Caspian

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Billy Steele

Billy Steele
Senior News Editor

I like to listen to music while I work. Over the years, I’ve found that instrumental tunes are the least distracting — even if they lean towards rock, hardcore or metal. My typical rotation includes J Dilla’s hip-hop tracks and the synth-heavy electronic stylings of Survive, Com Truise and Steve Hauschildt. I also like to indulge my emo and rock sensibilities with older albums from The Appleseed Cast and harder stuff from Rusian Circles. However, another of my current favorites is Caspian, a post-rock band whose latest album just came out in January.

I’ll admit I’d never heard of Caspian the first time I saw them live. I was more concerned about the reunion of Underoath, and the band just happened to be an opener. It can be awkward for an instrumental band to be on the same bill as a massively popular hardcore group, but I was impressed how Caspian held their own. Indeed, their music is true to post-rock tenets of texture and timbre over any traditional song structure or elements. The band creates layers of sound that envelope you, which takes skill to craft in the studio, and perhaps even more to do on stage.

At first, I leaned more to Capsian’s “harder” tracks. Songs like “Rioseco” are a perfect example of what the band is capable of. In fact, there’s a lot of similar evidence on the 2015 album Dust & Disquiet. That texture and layering starts off restrained, lulling you in over the first act of the song with some mellow guitar riffs. Then it starts to gradually build with drums in the next movement before transitioning to another airy, yet restrained bridge-like section. About halfway through the 7:52 track you can start to feel what’s coming. More distortion in the guitars. Another riff on top of the melody. Then it all fades back before the crescendo: an intense, almost post-hardcore surge. The song comes full circle by the end, bringing you back down before moving on to the next track.

The band’s latest album, On Circles, hooked me on first listen a few weeks ago. At this point, it’s been over four years since Dust & Disquiet, and you can tell the band’s sound has evolved with its latest work. The band’s audio arsenal goes a step further with elements like horns. And opening track “Wildblood” wastes no time getting down to business. There’s a little build up with a mix of synth, brass and spacey distorted guitars, but unlike some of Capsian’s previous work, you hit top speed in under three minutes. There are also some vocals on this album, which creates a mix of old and new. It’s interesting to hear what the band might sound like if more of their work had words.

It’s difficult to put into words what Caspian constructs with layers of guitars, synths, bass, drums and more. It’s not just rock music, it’s a performance, even with their recorded music. The songs have movements like a play, bringing equal parts intensity, despair and hope depending on the track, or even the part. It’s great work music because of those ebbs and flows: for every period of restrained melody, there’s a punch of energy coming when tracks drive ahead. If you’re into post-metal bands like Russian Circles or Isis and need something a little less… metal, Caspian might just be it.

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