The strength of the instrumental post-rock genre lies in its dynamic of power vs. melody. Its precious, semi-metal roots enabled the scene to soar out of the wreckage of late-80’s/early-90’s thrashing and harness the energy to redefine “wall of sound”. On the other hand, its hyper-melodic side is built on droning minimalism, and thus, balances the heavier sounds. What makes Caspian’s first full-length, The Four Trees, notable is its ability to shift through both sides of the genre with agility and grace as it evokes a complex landscape of delicate valleys and rugged mountains.
On The Four Trees, Caspian explore this intense/calm dynamic fully in individual songs as well as the album as a whole. The opening track, “Moksha”, is a nine-minute journey that ascends from a lilting glockenspiel to an exhausting distortion climax then descends with a strong, bounding gravity eventually to a modest, peaceful acoustic guitar. The emotional energy in the music is churned by the detail with which Caspian drives the high/low rollercoaster. “Sea Lawn” is a smoothly-paced shuffle spread around glimmering acoustica, frictionless electric upshoots, and a snare-jogging drumbeat. “ASA” is a seven-minute progression that eventually fades into flickering resolution. As it climbs towards its lofty plateau, it adds a canter to its electric flow, and finally, a wall of distortion and crashing rhythm. Several of the songs on the album cover a vast amount of territory.
On a larger scale, though, The Four Trees utilizes an affecting contrast of these powerful moments and calm reliefs. While a majority of the songs build from sober pathos to an inspired release, there’s a true sense of flow through the album. A smooth, sweeping line measuring intensity could be drawn from the beginning to end of The Four Trees. “Some Are White Light” immediately employs the vigor that “Moksha” conceives. After the racing “Crawlspace” and galloping “Book Nine”, “The Dropsonde” coasts on its steely, electric interlude. Similarly, “Our Breaths In Winter” and “The Dove” soothe the tension and provide a break between the fury on “Brombie” and “ASA”. The Four Trees as a whole has that essential multi-dimensionality.
The length and breadth of Caspian’s The Four Trees is that of an extensive forest, as it stretches lofty guitars far and wide with a beat that carries them the massive distance. It’s all under control, too, as the album slows down for rest at crucial moments. It’s powerful and balanced. It has everything the electric instrumental genre has intricately developed over the last decade.