Beverly, MA post-rock sextet Caspian has released a cathartic new album for a hyper-speed world. Their Triple Crown Records release, On Circles, is changing the way I listen and see life in real time.
I’ve lived the majority of my Massachusetts life in the fast lane. Speeding from goal to goal at highway speed felt normal. My tastes paralleled that. When it came to instrumental music, I had it one way- a million miles an hour. My usual haunts- Chon, Polyphia, Covet- won me with their baffling substance and complex flow. My favorite albums broke records of how much music a band could tastefully load into half an hour. Circles changed that.
On Circles has an instrumental flavor tastes very, very different.
Where others fill, Caspian’s On Circles unpacks. Not only can I breathe throughout On Circles, I can breathe deeply. It’s reliable, encapsulating, and undoubtedly expressive. On Circles is a wide-open world that invites a listener without hurry. Its space and repetition work wonders on a frayed and over-paced psyche. It reverses the trend of substance, making its seven minute intro track “Wildblood” pass like seconds.
Keeping a remarkably even keel, On Circles delves into deep and fulfilling textures.
Through these textures, Caspian turns On Circles’ soothing repeated themes into a meditative experience. Take, for instance, the track Division Blues. The main melodic voice paints a complex blend of hues and textures. As a refreshing embrace with slow complexity, the theme reflects a wistful, otherworldly voice for Caspian. It reaffirms to me- On Circles is a collection music meant to dream sweetly to.
On Circles is giving me a new lease.
I’ve maintained a robust obsession obsessed with unpredictable music, and a gentle scorn for what I’ve deemed simplistic. On Circles is giving me new thoughts to gnaw on and grow with, transforming the way I appreciate my music. An album’s ability to affect the way I perceive music has always been the clearest litmus test of its greatness. On Circles is altering music’s affect on my life in real time- a true triumph for what makes an album great.
The world is changing, and acceleration is starting to feel closer and closer to a runaway train to apocalypse. I’m changing with the world, it would be foolish to imagine us as beings impervious to change in 2020. Predictability, at one point a bland novelty, has changed.
On Circles redefines what predictability can be, far beyond water-cooler talk and mundane habit.
Once dull, a doorway has opened to a deeper, more present sonic experience. On Circles is a pillow-soft album that I’d take a nap in if I could. It’s delicious and ambient in a way that melts and lingers on the back of my tongue.
The repetition of On Circles’ unique melodies creates intricate patterns that preserve the experience’s rewarding individuality. Caspian’s lush and dynamic instrumentals creates grooves that I want to lose myself in. On Circles feels like a glimmering new tool that makes the mundane parts of existence significantly more special. I’d go to the farmer’s market, I’d go hiking, I’d go for a late-night longboard with this playing in my heart and be perfectly content.
There are especially satisfying moments; the moments where it takes a break from taking a break.
Collapser is the black sheep of the album. Noticeably darker, more abrasive, it mirrors the crunch and purpose first revealed in Wildblood. It layers ominous suspended chords, and slings bass that hits like polished granite- it reminds me intensely of Brontide’s Sans Souci and Night Verses’ From the Gallery of Sleep. The world is harsher and darker, but remains distinctly Caspian. It gives the sleek, glimmering luster of grit and purpose, wrapped up in a swirling mass of viscous charcoal-grey.
On Circles, for me, was a reflective journey as much as it was a musical journey.
Its peak, Ishmael, rings sweetly with chords that lilt back and forth like the tides. The acoustic element is a refreshing twist, which crescendos through violins and double basses into a sweeping concerto. I’m left however, with the growing sense of unease. All of this growth towards grandiose heights, what does it grow towards? What destination does this piece take such pains to reach? Textures like rainy, fuzzy radio static grow to maddening anticipation, and finally resolve. If the entire song’s purpose is served as a prelude, it fulfills itself magnificently.
Circles on Circles– Caspian’s Orphean masterpiece:
This piece does something to me that few songs out of the thousands have reached. Circles on Circles fills me with the humble, sacred resonance that made me fall in love with music. In the ways that some novels are written to house singular ideas, I would be perfectly content if On Circles housed this one song. What a special form of surrender Circles on Circles is. It is so preciously human, truly the stuff that lights at the end of the tunnel are made from.
However, the deeply touching and momentous piece ends feeling threadbare to me. I refuse to jeopardize such a treasure by dissecting the last seconds for their meaning, but the decision feels so specific. I’d like to know why it rings hollow for me, and if the meaning is as poetic as I hope it is.
Caspian’s On Circles is a graceful and eloquent surrender to time. It performs truly unconventional magic, soft and reassuring to the second hands in ways I’ve feared to explore. In the impossible battle between human, time, and age, it allows me to put down my weapons and just breathe.