Post-rock and vocals? Yes, please
It can take a lot to bounce back after something traumatic happens—especially after the loss of a dear friend. For the members of Caspian, it was founding bassist Chris Friedrich. Having already established much of their prowess and creativity with soundscapes, what came after their loss was one of their greatest records to date—2015’s Dust and Disquiet. That record carried warranted moodiness, a purgative release at a time it was most necessary. Then, Caspian went quiet for over four years. During that time, it seems like Caspian looked inside itself as an entity ready for exploration, as their newest On Circles shows them going down some more diverse lanes.
As a pair of opening tracks, “Wildblood” and “Flowers of Light” are somewhat transitionary from Dust and Disquiet, save for the first iterations of experimentation on the record. Both still have that strong, visceral instrumental feeling present on albums past, yet “Wildblood” is adorned with saxophone for a slight jazzy flair, and “Flowers of Light” fairly subdued percussion is bolstered by incredible bass. “Nostalgist,” the next track, is where the record takes its first turn for the surprising. Since post-rock is characteristically sans vocals, featuring Kyle Durfey of Pianos Become the Teeth doing the entire opposite adds a pleasant and unexpected twist before the album even gets midway through. His tonality matches Caspian’s instrumentation perfectly, so it didn’t sound in any way out of place.
After going back to their usual MO along with some classical features, like former tour mate Jo Quail lending some cello to “Division Blues” and “Ishmael,” Caspian yet again brings some vocals back into this mix. This time, they come from guitarist and keyboardist Phillip Jamieson on the closing—and closest to a title track—“Circles On Circles.” Driven by its acoustic guitar, “Circles On Circles” is somewhat of a ballad; an existential ode to the varying levels of confusing despair collectively felt by Caspian’s members leading up to this point. Structurally, there isn’t a whole lot about its instrumentation that sets it apart from any of the band’s other tracks, but Jamieson’s vocals give it a heartfelt kick that makes it a good way to end yet another cathartic release. On Circles may not necessarily be reinventing the post-rock wheel here, but they’re certainly rolling in down some different paths than the usual.