Review Summary: An accessible, always listenable, and cohesive post rock release that provides nothing new but nothing terribly trite.
As it stands now, post rock is a dead and tired genre, an unfortunate realization since some of the more popular post rock bands are getting more and more popularity in the mainstream. There is little left to do in the genre and anything new simply rehashes old material in some way or another. However, do not discredit every current post rock release because it is not groundbreaking and pioneering. Bands still perform and write excellent material and further refine the typical post rock sound. Caspian is one of those bands.
The Four Trees, the first full-length album from the Massachusetts-based group, combines nearly every sound from post-rock into one album that flows coherently and logically. From ambient, textural drones to hard hitting riffs a la Pelican, The Four Trees breezes from style to style effortlessly. Unlike most post-rock bands, The Four Trees makes more sense as an album than as split into individual songs. There is definitely a natural progression. Their EP, You Are the Conductor, hinted at this broad-scoped songwriting style and executed it well, but this album shows the band has a much bigger vision than just an interconnected EP. On the EP, each song connected perfectly but it nothing made sense unless one played the entire EP. Here, each song stands formidably on its own and also finds its perfect place on the album. The first half of the album stands as one big glorious statement, although each song in itself builds from nothing to something like the typical guitar-based post rock song. Guitar melodies simple enough for a 10 year old but the ensemble control of an experienced, talented band combine to make an excellent sound, if not terribly original.
The best of these tracks is Crawlspace
, which begins ready to break out into your favorite hair metal song, but instead, the rhythm builds to a subtle climax and climbs back down, only to build again to what seems like the top of the song and transitions to a new rhythmic idea and the whole process begins again. However, the true climax comes after a surprise release and an extended silence. Suddenly, the heaviest riff on the album enters, full with screaming feedback, pounding drums, and enough intensity for them to make it in the metal scene. Caspian applies the surprise heavy riff technique again in Reprise
, the album’s closer. Although the riff is weaker, the effect is greater because the song tapers off to silence before the distortion and feedback takes the album to its close much like a live show would- organized chaos. Aside from these two songs, Caspian generally applies two or three musical ideas to each song, wearing each one out by growing from a whisper to a scream on each idea before transitioning. Despite all the transitions, each song progresses naturally, showing the songwriting talent of the band.
The middle of the album shows that Caspian is not a one trick pony. This section makes the album a fully developed idea, with a lull in intensity. The Dropsonde
, Our Breaths in Winter
, and The Dove
all take quieter, more subtle approaches to the music. The first two songs use delay effects and droning guitar chords for a taffy-like effect, where every note pulls on the notes next to it. Brombie
ruins the mood of the quiet section, as it grows much like the first half of the album. Taking in the full scope, it provides the climax to the quiet section of the album. Our Breaths in Winter
is easily the highlight of the section, simply a bass solo using chords and intervals. It is simple but effective, serving its purpose of a break between the rest of the album. It sits in a tranquil land far away, never growing or dying. His tone is incredible, full and confident. Somehow, it flows perfectly into The Dove
, which begins with effect-laden guitar and drones on, swelling up and down with no reason. These 7 minutes of tranquility offset the entire album with a completely different voice unheard of from Caspian. In some ways, the two tracks are the best on the album.
The Four Trees provides nothing new to the post rock world. Instead, they show a mastery of the sound their idols laid out before them, making a listenable, cohesive album in the midst of multiple epics. Unlike their contemporaries, Caspian’s music is not particularly moody. One can listen to it at almost any time. If anything, The Four Trees is one of the most accessible post rock releases in a long time.