Plumbiferous Media

Tertia - Caspian

Aug 13th 2009
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Tertia - CaspianCaspian
Score: 46

Caspi­an, a post-rock band hail­ing from Mass­a­chu­setts, released its sec­ond album ear­li­er this week. On Ter­tia, Caspi­an shows the expe­ri­ence lent to them by its pre­vi­ous release, but at the same time they refuse to always use their clear­ly present abil­i­ty to pro­duce pro­found post-rock. Ter­tia is a jun­gle filled with both good and bad, but few real treasures.

Ter­tia begins well with the expert­ly-com­posed “Mie,” open­ing smooth­ly with a sur­pris­ing­ly live­ly sta­t­ic and grow­ing beau­ti­ful­ly into an all-encom­pass­ing sound under­laid by the radio-like buzz of mut­ed vocals, all the while tran­si­tion­ing into a light, piano and synth-filled sec­ond act. The begin­ning of Ter­tia is Caspi­an at its best, and it’s a pity that the rest of the album can’t match up to that standard. 

As Ter­tia pro­gress­es, it clear­ly suf­fers from a lack of inno­va­tion, but Caspi­an has nev­er­the­less done many things right. They’ve built intrigu­ing intros for much of the album, from the rock gui­tar of “Mala­co­da” to the quiv­er­ing hum which begins “The Raven,” and the entire­ty of Ter­tia is infused with the sheer pow­er which Caspi­an made their trade­mark on The Four Trees. Heavy gui­tar lay­er­ing and abrupt shifts in vol­ume occa­sion­al­ly give the album a metal­lic ambi­ence, which plays the dual role of dis­rupt­ing con­sis­ten­cy in the album and spon­ta­neous­ly ener­giz­ing the music. Shifts between the soft­er sound of tracks like “Ghosts of the Gar­den City,” which uses a light vocal lay­er in much the same was as “Mie” though in a slight­ly less suc­cess­ful man­ner, and stronger tracks such as “Of Foam and Wave” pre­vent the album from becom­ing too repet­i­tive, though it can’t quite escape that fate on indi­vid­ual tracks.

As suc­cess­ful as some tracks are, Ter­tia nev­er ful­ly escapes from rep­e­ti­tion, awk­ward tran­si­tions, and tracks that com­plete­ly fail to influ­ence the album as a whole, except to increase its total length. One of the worst offend­ers, “La Cer­va” repeats the same minia­ture theme through near­ly the entire track while try­ing to make it sound inter­est­ing by tweak­ing an ele­ment here or there, adding or remov­ing a voice, or chang­ing the key.

Though Caspi­an has clear­ly cement­ed cer­tain ele­ments, it has not yet man­aged to find the line between drawn out and over­ly lengthy. The glock­en­spiel line and the syn­the­sized choir sound of “Ghosts of the Gar­den City” are per­fect exam­ples of the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry. So while “Mala­co­da” (even with its awk­ward tran­si­tions) and “Con­cres­cence” push the album for­ward, oth­er tracks like “Epochs in Dmaj” and “Vien­na” hold the album par­a­lyzed. With Ter­tia, Caspi­an has done the extra­or­di­nary: mak­ing post-rock tracks sound long - even when under five minutes.

While Ter­tia begins well with the for­mi­da­ble “Mie,” the ener­gy of that track quick­ly goes to waste, squan­dered through “La Cer­va“ ‘s inces­sant rep­e­ti­tion, and Ter­tia nev­er attains that lev­el of qual­i­ty again. Sev­er­al tracks, such as “Mala­co­da” and “The Raven” are cer­tain­ly inter­est­ing but togeth­er lack the diver­si­ty need­ed to make them tru­ly excep­tion­al. By the end, Ter­tia has formed less into a sol­id album and more into a jum­ble of tracks, some mediocre, some mid­dling but intrigu­ing, and very few inspired. Buried under so many pedes­tri­an efforts, the lat­ter two groups can­not hope to tri­umph over the short­com­ings of the rest. And so Ter­tia is mediocre, though it cer­tain­ly had the poten­tial to be much more.

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