Deepest apologies to my fellow critics, but y'all are all wrong: Caspian is not a post-rock band. Hell, post-rock is barely a genre. It's more a weak classification, shorthand for "something more complicated than I'd like to explain." They may be decidedly progressive and unwaveringly ambitious, but the Beverly, Mass., septet is thoroughly and firmly ensconced in the rock tradition — nothing "post" about it. Their new album Dust and Disquiet falls in the heart of the Venn Diagram, right where indie rock's avant-garde circle overlaps with psychedelia's cosmic-wanderings circle. The moodiness of metal and the futurism of fusion all collide, and that should be evidence enough that these dudes are "post" nothing. Caspian is part of a long tradition of expanding the possibilities of what rock can be, and they deserve the full credit for it.
"Repeating ourselves is just not an option," guitarist Jonny Ashburn tells the Scene. "The further along you get as a band, your catalog gets deeper. But if you're pushing yourself, it also means that there are things — I won't say 'can't' — but rather you shouldn't do because you did them already."
Ashburn & Co. pushed themselves, and the result is a record that surprises at every turn. Whether it's the moment when the krautrock motorik and shimmering guitars of "Arcs of Command" turn into a full-on heavy-metal churn, or when actual, honest-to-God vocals creep into "Echo and Abyss" — this comes after a decade as a primarily instrumental band — Dust and Disquiet is edge-of-your-seat listening. The turn toward using vocals is seamless and natural, and it showcases the band's abilities as songwriters and arrangers. The vocals aren't slapped on top of the track in an attempt to cross over, but rather used as a very organic extension of the group's previous work. Like synthesizers or acoustic guitars, vocals are an extra color on Caspian's palette and are applied as such. Vocals aren't the focus, but they add to the beauty and depth.
"We pushed it — we pushed the boundaries with this one," says Ashburn. "Having an acoustic and vocal track ['Run Dry'] right in the middle of the record, making it front-and-center and not at the end of the record or something like that, taking some of those chances ... and having it received in a way that we could be proud of, was really rewarding."
The fact that Caspian is able to take such chances, that they have an audience willing to follow them down strange paths, is a testament to their vision and their craftsmanship. The fact that the band has been able to keep that audience growing over the past decade is a testament to the strength of their songwriting and the vitality of their musical ideas. It is also a testament to just how much they rock, especially in a world where serious, ambitious music is often ignored in favor of celebrity gossip and staid, recycled ideas.
Caspian is post-nothing. Caspian is, in fact, the torchbearers of a proud tradition, and one helluva rock band.