CD review: Caspian's 'Tertia'

Caspian leans toward hard rock, but it's capable of quiet contemplation.
Caspian leans toward hard rock, but it's capable of quiet contemplation. (Diana Levine)
Friday, January 8, 2010



Kindred spirits: Mono, Explosions in the Sky, Brian Eno

Show: With Sainthood Reps and Solar Powered Sun Destroyer on Friday at the Red and the Black. Show starts at 9 p.m. 202-399-3201.

Like other all-instrumental "post-rock" bands, Caspian builds from gentle ripplings to peals of musical thunder. But this three-guitar Massachusetts quintet isn't in it just for the crescendos. Its third release, "Tertia," is just as effective when it sparkles as when it storms.

Caspian's style can be taken as abstracted heavy metal or high-romantic orchestral music transferred to rock instruments. Pieces such as "Ghosts of the Garden City" resemble those of the Beethoven-loving Japanese quartet Mono. Yet guitarists Philip Jamieson (who also contributes keyboards and electronics), Calvin Joss and Erin Burke-Moran sometimes play hushed passages that suggest Brian Eno's ambient music. "Concrescene" jangles prettily but unassertively, more chamber music than arena-rock, while the nine-minute "Sycamore" becomes a drum-thumping epic.

The group's hard-rock tendencies are often expressed by distorted guitar interwoven with more delicate textures on tracks such as "Of Foam and Wave." The band rejects both traditional verse-chorus structure and dueling-instrument improvisation, preferring tightly constructed ensemble music. Caspian has the instrumental firepower to make a big noise when it feels like it. But the melodies, timbres and harmonics are so fully realized that "Tertia" would be mighty, even without its climaxes.

-- Mark Jenkins

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