When You Are the Conductor dropped in 2005, we knew that we were in the presence of something special. The EP was short, sweet and refined, an introduction to what would become one of the last decade’s most beloved post-rock bands. Stretching its wings with The Four Trees, the band produced a consistently engaging album that many thought might be its masterpiece. Tertia impressed with some of the band’s best tracks. A live EP earlier this year provided hope that something special was on its way. Waking Season justifies all the faith that fans have poured into the band for seven years. Caspian has finally hit its stride.
The live energy of Old South Church seems to have carried over to this release, as the band seems both confident and caffeinated. While at times borrowing elements from Mono or 65daysofstatic, Caspian remains recognizable. The little touches help to set this album above the pack: the ambient introduction of the title track, the piano coda of “Procellous”, the laughing children who come out to play at the album’s midpoint. But it’s the BIG touches that stick in the listener’s mind: the memorable chords of the ten-minute “Gone in Bloom and Bough”, the intense finale of “Fire Made Flesh”. Prior to Waking Season, the high marks of Caspian albums were found on standout tracks, but now they are apparent throughout the record. Riffs, riffs everywhere. Subdued vocals and choral wails. Tiny, graceful interludes.
A new restraint is apparent, as well as a clear and present joy. The band members seem to have had a blast in the studio; their exuberance shines through on every track. Waking Season is a happy album, the type of post-rock that gets one going in the morning and seems strong enough to start the car on its own. It’s also the best mastered of the Caspian releases. The choice to promote the drums to the foreground pays off on key occasions, even when the beat is constant (as on “Hickory 54”, where it leads to a setting of gentle bells). The guitars swoop and swirl as expected, but not always; at times they seem more contrail than cumulus. Did Caspian miss anything? Accessibility, intricacy, variety, flow? Apparently not. Seven years of experience have been put to excellent use.
This is the waking season of the band’s life: awakening to joy, to gratitude, to the euphoria of being exactly where they need to be. Caspian has climbed the mountaintop, has planted the flag, and has no immediate intention of descending. (Richard Allen)