Despite not being stereotypically synonymous with the post-rock genre like the juggernaut figureheads such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Explosions In The Sky, Caspian have long forged a reputation of delivering reliable excellence with every release. As expected, it's an accolade they honourable defend with their latest record. The sextet's fifth full length, On Circles once again documents Caspian doing what they do best; weaving vividly gorgeous tapestries of texted sound that envelops the listener blissfully. However, where’s as 2012’s Waking Season entertained a level of hickory scented adventurism and 2015’s Dust And Disquiet diffused a sense of bittersweet melancholy, On Circles animates a sense of therapeutic warmth and release. The blanketing sense of gentle catharsis is relatively unsurprising given the background to the record, with the creation of On Circles serving as a creative outlet amidst a bout of deliberating depression experienced by Phillip Jamieson (Guitar/keys). Whilst many pieces of musical art have been bouts of mental illness musically transmogrified, On Circles doesn’t just feel therapeutic, it feels cleansing to a spiritual degree.
Like two crested songbirds within the mist of a summer’s dawn, On Circles opens with the call and response horns of ‘Wildblood’, a track that viscerally blooms into a beautifully crushing haze that carries the warmth of a pleasant Indian summer. This sentiment continuities into the previously released musical panorama of ‘Flowers Of Light, a track that swells with withheld vibrancy prior to bursting with vivid instrumental splendour. The mechanical clock tower crescendo of ‘Division Blues’ and the minimalist ‘Onsra’ see Caspian take a more withheld and reserved approach to instrumental therapy, with the tracks enjoying an element of quiet atmospheric coyness that’s reminiscent of some of the more modest work of Slepmakeswaves and Maybeshewill. Yet, the gleaming and blissful human emotion remains the most prominent element within these movements.
This sheer level of musical skill evident isn’t surprising given Caspian’s glowing resume thus far. However, what is abound to be surprising for many a dotted fan is ‘Nostalgist’. Already destined to be a major bookmark within their career, the track see’s the band weave vocals into their rich sound for the very first time, with Kyle Durfey of Pianos Become The Teeth lending his distinguishable voice for the track. It’s natural that some may have strong reservations about the prospect of Caspian introducing vocals into their work, with the notion of post-rock with vocals being a classically debated subject, but Caspian interweave this new and original texture with finesse.
The only thing that ultimately serves as a chill within this warm musical journey is the barbed post-metal typhoon of ‘Collapser’. True to it’s respective namesake, the track see’s the fervent and gentle emotion come crashing down with ironised violence. It’s a stark contrast to the content that flanks it, with it’s callous barbed bass lines and metallic disturbance harking back to Russian Circle’s most recent record Blood Moon. The crashing metal waves do calm for the sea salt scented nautical aesthetic of ‘Ishmael’, but it’s far a shocking segment of the record, potentially more so than the inclusion of vocal work.
While On Circles is a record that gently, but certainly emits emotion, the bittersweet acoustic closer of ‘Circles On Circles’ is by far the most palpably emotional track on this record primarily due to Jamieson himself reprising vocals again himself. It’s a folk tinged farewell, but one that resonates the reliable beauty of Caspian and brings the record to a close with tender compassion. In all, whilst On Circles may have been a record born from pain, it’s inspirational, majestic and above all, vividly gorgeous. A life affirming wall of therputic and beautiful sound that one needs to lose themselves within at the earliest opportunity.
On Circles Is Released January 24th via Triple Crown Records