Caspian

support Jo Quail
author AP date 31/08/16 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

Four years have passed since Caspian last graced Denmark with a visit, and even though it was always in the cards that the Beverly, MA -born post-rock phenomenon would return to promote their latest album “Dust and Disquiet”, the air inside BETA is thick with anticipation from the near sold-out crowd. After all, the band is celebrated as one of the best live acts in the genre, always trusted to dispense with every last drop of its energy reservoir to give audiences value for cash. Tonight’s showing was no exception.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Jo Quail

It is not every day ones goes to a rock concert and finds the opening act to be a cellist, but once London, United Kingdom’s Jo Quail unleashes her one-woman orchestra, it is easy to hear the relevance. By utilising loop pedals she is able to record a vast array of instrumental tracks (including percussion — by tapping the body of her cello) live and cue those as needed to conjure enormous, multilayered soundscapes that sound remarkably similar to the more cinematic practitioners of the post-rock genre despite not enlisting any of the conventional instruments. Most of her music is dramatic, grandiose and, when she fires all of her loops at once, quite heavy — as if the soundtrack to some James Cameron epic. And the fact that she is able to produce all of this on the go and remain in perfect harmony with herself is as astounding as her technique with the bow.

On the flipside however, some of the pieces that Quail claims as personal favourites are… divisive, to say the least. This is where she dares experiment and really break the conventional frame of how a cellist should play, the outcome being a duo of eerie, ambient tracks that regrettably crushes the momentum of her set halfway. She wraps it up in style with a pair of rhapsodic tracks, one of which features a cameo from ‘Caspian’s engine room’ aka. bassist Jani Zubkovs and drummer Joe Vickers for extra oomph. But neither of those songs quite manages to regenerate the magnetism of the opening tracks “Laurus” and I believe “White Salt Stag”, which leaves me with mixed feelings about this unusual and curious experience. Given that Jo Quail’s music sits outside of this webzine’s scope however, it would be unjust for me to pass judgment upon it in the form of a grade.

Caspian

As is customary to Caspian’s live performances, the quintet has opted to exclusively utilise back lighting tonight, including their own soft, yellow bulbs glowing within rippled glass containers atop each amplifier. The result is a stunning visual aesthetic which removes focus from the individual musicians, and portrays them rather as conduits for the protagonist: the transcendental, escalating style of post-rock for which Caspian is famed. It is utterly transfixing to witness the energy with which the five musicians (or silhouettes, depending on your vantage point) assert themselves in perfect harmony with the mood and tone of the music at any given moment. When traversing through a quietus, there is an eerie stillness to them, sometimes seated, sometimes kneeling; when a crescendo erupts, each of the three guitarists and bassist look as though overcome by sudden madness, thrashing around and violently brandishing their instruments at a crowd in awe.

Granted, the music can sometimes feel one-dimensional in the sense that virtually every song begins with a tranquil clean section, gradually swells toward a cinematic climax, and then abruptly concludes. But at the same time, Caspian understands the importance of a transition for blurring the boundary between one song and the next, and as a consequence, the band’s 100-minute concert never feels repetitive. And long though set set may be, the audience remains in thrall throughout, an almost disbelieving look glowing in many of the patrons’ eyes as they behold the spectacle. It is difficult to relate to it in any other way, such is the immersing power of Caspian’s preferred modus operandi: to dial the volume to the maximum without compromising on any of the detail bulging in songs like “Gone in Bloom and Bough” or “Arcs of Command”, and have it arrest the audience in situ, subject to what you might call a ‘forced catharsis’.

Indeed, Caspian has a unique ability to encapsulate life itself in their music (as also mentioned in my review of the band’s latest album “Dust and Disquiet” last year). The music is omniscient and empowering, and watching it live makes you feel alive in every definition of the word, and experience the whirlwind of emotions that we each must tackle during our time here. This is more or less the definition of transcendence, and the primary reason why Caspian commands such respect. In light of their majesty tonight then, one must hope that it will not take them another four years to return for their next show. This is the kind of concert people yearn for; the kind that removes you from reality for a moment and sends you swirling into euphoria.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Dust and Disquiet
  • 02. Quovis / Further Up / Further In
  • 03. Gone in Bloom and Bough
  • 04. Arcs of Command
  • 05. Sad Heart of Mine
  • 06. Ghosts of the Garden City
  • 07. Ríoseco
  • 08. Darkfield
  • 09. Sycamore

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