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Starting off a review of a post rock album by suggesting that post rock is a dead, flat lined, or otherwise stagnated genre may be just as stale as the genre itself has become, but the notion still holds weight in today’s heavily saturated scene. It’s a truly unavoidable reality, and the basic post rock formula characterized by heavily delayed guitars and lengthy tracks with predictable climaxes has been played out time and time again. What lies beneath tongue-in-cheek attitude from armchair critics is the fact that post rock may be past its glory days, but it’s certainly still alive and kicking. For reference of what it really means to be a relevant post rock band in 2015, look no further than Caspian’s latest LP, Dust and Disquiet.
Dust and Disquiet starts in familiar post rock territory with the introductory track, “Separation No. 2”. It’s a subtle build with subtle instrumentation buried beneath the occasional stark high note, which slowly leads into the second track. At this point, things start to pick up in a way that feels much more calculated than it does immediate. By the time “Arcs of Command” comes around, the listener is hooked. This track is a particular highlight and features a fantastic build with ascending drums behind flurrying guitar notes. Once it hits the midpoint, Caspian is in full swing creating an epic atmosphere made up of distorted guitar riffs and aggressive drumming. The song was a wise choice for a single, and it's certainly one of the best and most intense tracks to be found on the album.
Once the beginning of the album starts to settle, it becomes evident that the band went the extra mile with perfecting their sound from a sonic perspective. Nothing ever feels buried beneath walls of sound, and everything from the guitar tone to the crash of the cymbals sounds fine-tuned. While it may not have anything to do with the actual songwriting, mixing layer-upon-layer of instrumentation can be a feat and the excellence behind the mixing of “Dust and Disquiet” is something to be acknowledged. This especially shines in the aforementioned “Arcs of Command”, as well as in “Echo and Abyss” and “Darkfield”. Production is one element that could’ve seriously brought down this release, and it’s safe to say that Caspian jumped the shark and then some.
Moving back to the compositional highlights of the record, Dust and Disquiet is a consistent powerhouse until the very end. Nothing is really left to desire when the album concludes, and it’s a welcome return-to-form for a group that has struggled with consistency across their past few releases. Filler is essentially nonexistent, which is appreciable in any album. The second half of the album is a bit more lush than the first, and the movement from “Equal Night” to “Sad Heart of Mine” presents a wonderfully spacy atmosphere that holds back a bit of the immediacy found in the earlier tracks. By the time the eleven-and-a-half-minute epic of a title track comes on to close the album, it becomes evident that the album manages to say everything that it needs to without adding any bonus frill or gimmick.
If there’s one thing that Caspian has managed to prove in 2015, it’s that there’s still a glimmer of hope for post-rock. Dust and Disquiet fails to do anything truly reinvented, but it also doesn’t need to. Songwriting steals the show here, as this effort stands out as one of the best albums that the genre has spawned in recent years.