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The best kept secret in music


by Linda Laban, Globe Correspondant. December 31, 2005

CAMBRIDGE -- Caspian is that rare thing, a hungry, ambitious, young rock band that isn't all pose and pout and actually has something real to say and the talent to pull it off. At the sold-out Middle East show, Caspian's hugely passionate, all-instrumental music spoke volumes. And, at times, at very loud volume. This experiment with loudness, a post rock trait, accelerated the effect of Caspian's vociferous ruminations on life, love, and the universe. Alternating thoughtful, ebbing passages with engulfing sonic attacks, the music's juxtaposed sweetness and force captured the human state's duality of frailty and endeavor, doubt and determination.

Guitarists Calvin Joss and Philip Jamieson, and bassist Chris Friedrich, formed a consolidated interactive frontline of melody and noize. But there was no ignoring the cascading or driving runs from drummer Joe Vickers. Though he was physically positioned behind the guitarists, the musicality of his playing added no mere backbeat, but another voice.

The short but mighty set kicked off with the swoon and swell of ''ASA," and soon hit the tight, all-out thrall of ''Crawlspace." The beauty of the band's debut EP, ''You Are the Conductor," which was released this fall by Beverly indie Dopamine Records, was recalled in the perfectly formed trilogy ''Quovis/Further Up/Further In," a gorgeous atmospheric triptych with an anthemic introduction and an awesome finale. Joss carefully picked out the melody of the closing song, ''Moksha," on xylophone before his bandmates joined in to add thrashing guitars and drums: A lullaby before the storm.

Earlier bands, Seneca, Constants, Junius, and openers Shore Leave, were not easy acts to follow. They shared a similar intensity to Caspian but added individual twists from hardcore to prog to new wave pop.

But these bands added conventional musical signposts: words - The Boston Globe

Feature Article By Johnathan Perry

The great ones don't have to say a word to speak volumes. Painters do it with the accent of a brush on canvas. Photographers seize and freeze the world in a telling moment. A gifted actor discloses the essence of her character with the smallest, subtlest of gestures. Wordless revelations of the human heart, mind, and soul have, of course, always been the commerce of classical music and jazz.

A hip-deep dance-floor groove or cathartic rock riff can express what we crave, yes, but a sustained vocal-less exploration -- just guitar, drums, and bass investigating the outer edges of the rock realm without pop's quick fix -- can be trickier.

Caspian, a brightly ambitious, all-instrumental foursome from Beverly that has just released a similarly ambitious debut EP, ''You Are the Conductor," does not exactly make pop or rock music. Well, not in any conventional sense, anyway. But the disc's dramatic, sleekly atmospheric sonic tableaux speak a sophisticated vocabulary nonetheless and fit firmly alongside the company of such so-called post-rock sojourners as Texas's Explosions in the Sky and Canada's Godspeed You Black Emperor!. Swelling, climaxing, dissipating, reconfiguring -- this is music to make you muse, wonder, reflect, rejoice, dream. Densely probing one moment, softly pulsing the next, Caspian creates soundtracks to the films in your head, or the ones that emerge when you listen.

''We don't feel confined by anything," says Caspian guitarist Philip Jamieson, 26, whose band headlines the Middle East Upstairs tonight. ''Our music is based on our reactions to our surroundings -- our personal relationships, the music we're listening to, the people we're hanging out with, the things we're engaged in. We'll always have something to respond to. I don't want to project too much into the future, but this is the kind of thing that could be done forever."

It's been just over two years since four friends from Wenham's Gordon College -- a Christian liberal arts school -- coalesced around an ongoing musical collaboration they dubbed Caspian (both for its connotation of otherworldy adventure as well as its reference to author C.S. Lewis).

Before ever setting foot onstage, they practiced in homes and basements and rented rehearsal spaces for a year. And although a spiritual perspective may inform band members on a personal level, Caspian's feedback-drenched instrumental debut is about as non-denominational as it gets.

''We'd get in a room, turn our amps up as loud as they went, and would just jam for hours," says Jamieson, who had previously played with a more traditional postpunk Beverly band called the Hawley Sawyer Rifle Company. ''We didn't start Caspian intentionally to be an instrumental band. It's not like we were all sitting around saying, 'Vocal music [stinks] -- we're done with it!' We actually tried some singers and conventional ideas, but they didn't really like us. We've found our voice now, but I think it's important for people to know that [this] doesn't mean we have this hidden contempt for singers. This is just how we've chosen to communicate."

Alexander Maniatis, cofounder of Dopamine/Amalagate Records, the independent Beverly label that released ''Conductor" last month, recalls the first time he saw the band at a dive bar in Salem.

''Upon [Caspian] playing their first chord, the crowd was pushed into a daze and Dopamine instantly fell in love," says Maniatis of the band, which also includes guitarist Calvin Joss, bassist Chris Friedrich, and drummer Joe Vickers.

Caspian's ability, as Maniatis describes it, ''to breathe hope into the weakest of times" with its music drew the label's attention.

''To be frank," Jamieson says, ''sometimes it's easier to communicate without a singer onstage shouting platitudes that don't really resonate with you. It's more personal when there are no lyrics or words. The words are yours. They're whatever you want them to be."

Within a month of that Salem gig, Caspian joined an eclectic Dopamine/Amalagate roster that includes Boston's Eyes Like Knives and Cave In frontman Stephen Brodsky. Earlier this year, Caspian headed to New Alliance Studios in Boston to lay down the six tracks that would become the ''Conductor" EP.

''We were limited in terms of our resources," says Jamieson of his band's recorded debut, which clocks in at just under 28 minutes. ''I think it was an excellent starting point and a great way to kick off the journey. But there's so much more to go."
- The Boston Globe

by Chris Pearson - October 2005

Epic, grand, skyward- moving, earth-shaking, sublime brilliance, utterly flooring, emotionally charging and draining, overwhelming, life saving, aching majesty. Just devastatingly beautiful... this is the best record on the planet this year, and just whets the appetite for the full-length coming in 2006. Words just cant do justice. Amazing. - The Noise

"You Are The Conductor is possibly the mightiest, grandest CD of the year, local or otherwise" - Boston Herald

"Six blissful instrumental tracks that present a band on the trajectory to greatness... Caspian's first move into the music world is a memorable one, and a big leap forward for the stateside instrumental scene." - Decoy Music

Who: Post rock instrumentalists Caspian features Philip Jamieson (guitar), Erin Burke-Moran (guitar), Chris Freidrich (bass), Joe Vickers (drums) and Calvin Joss (guitar). After gaining a wide fan base in and around the Beantown 'burbs thanks to the buzz around their You are the Conductor EP, Caspian readied 2007 for their debut studio full-length, The Four Trees, which is out now via the Boston indie imprint, Dopamine.

What's the Deal? The Four Trees is loaded with crushingly pretty melodies, Thor-approved feedback, loops, and guitar hooks, and fans of Explosions in the Sky, This is Your Captain Speaking (and a bit of Godspeed You! Black Emperor) will be sucked into Caspian's sprawling soundscapes. Finding inspiration in wild charging horses ("Brombie"), Sanskrit terms ("Moksha"), weather devices ("Dropsonde"), and, most obviously, bodies of water, The Four Trees transcends post rock clichŽs with meticulously crafted songcraft.

Fun Fact: Since their first round of touring, Caspian has learned a few things when it comes to booking venues. When asked to play a house party in Georgia, whose crowd numbers peaked at five, the band was confronted not only by the police, but by the "hard livin' tabacco spitting car mechanic locals, who at the time were throwing trash and pieces of old food at the only two girls present at the party," Philip Jamieson tells "We didn't get paid anything, and nearly got raped by backwoods hicks, but got a great story out of the experience." KRISTINA GRINOVICH -

After blowing up in the local underground with their highly acclaimed 2005 release of You Are the Conductor, the boys of Caspian have been hard at work maintaining their reputation as one of BostonÕs greatest singer-less bands. Through constant touring and internet promotion during the past year, Caspian quickly gained recognition among tight-knit indie and Òpost-rockÓ communities across the globe. Now, the band has completed their first full-length album, The Four Trees, and is prepared to unleash it on the world. Harmonizing an intellectually rich atmosphere with an assertive rock nÕ roll attitude, Caspian has crafted a refreshing angle on instrumental music that is definitely worth paying attention to.

In contrast to their debut EP You Are the Conductor, which showed the band more or less experimenting with techniques and getting the hang of things, The Four Trees is definitely a well-polished and complete work. Taking on a similar tone and style as their previous effort, this new album offers a comfortable return to CaspianÕs classic sound while taking more time to fully develop and explore emotional extremes. The band lets delicate, ambient melodies linger and build slowly, often taking up entire tracks to do so. At the same time, the albumÕs climaxes are able to reach soaring new heights of intensity, erupting in waves of distorted riffs and pounding percussion that are somewhat surprising but also very effective. In addition, the album as a whole takes on a deliberately cyclical path, starting out with the gentle and uplifting ÒMoksha,Ó building up to exceptionally aggressive tracks like ÒCrawlspaceÓ and ÒBrombieÓ and then slowing descending back into the serene ÒReprise.Ó All of these elements combine to make The Four Trees an especially passionate collection of tracks, setting the stage for a spellbinding journey of highs and lows.

With the completion of this first full album, Caspian have undoubtedly attained a secure foothold in the modern instrumental scene. Past complaints about the band having excessive similarities to other instrumental acts such as Explosions in the Sky may still be somewhat valid, but The Four Trees clearly helps to diminish this notion. While they do implement a fair share of trendy techniques and playing habits (massive amounts of effects, delay pedals, repetitious playing, etc.), itÕs carried out with a certain artistic edge that clearly doesnÕt detract from their sound. Furthermore, The Four Trees shows the band venturing into much more aggressive territories than most of their genre-buddies would ever dare go, and this says a lot about their drive for originality. Although they may have originated from the midst of a modern underground trend, Caspian have proved that they certainly arenÕt just following the crowd anymore. - SonicFrontiers


"You Are The Conductor" CDEP Released November 12, 2005 by Dopamine Records, distributed exclusively by NAIL distribution. Available from online retailers such as iTunes, Amazon and InSound and from most major and independant local retailers.

"The Four Trees" CDLP Released April 10, 2007 in North America by Dopamine Records, and May 2, 2007 in Japan by XTAL Recordings. Available from online retailers such as iTunes, Amazon and InSound and from most major and independant local retailers.


Feeling a bit camera shy


When drowning in the appropriate sound, you find yourself achieving the same fundamental effects in your soul as coming up for air has on the body. Caspian is that appropriate sound. An instumental rock band from Beverly, Massachusetts formed in Autumn of 2003, these five young men have crafted a sound that is immediately riveting, emotionally devastating, and achingly passionate. Influenced in equal measure by the minimalist compositions of neo-classicists such as Arvo Part, to the full on rock crush of bands like Mono, Dredg and ISIS, topped off with the lush ambient stylings of artists like Eluvium, Stars of the Lid and Brain Eno, the music of Caspian is characterized by towering walls of sound, oceanic guitar work, viscious rhythmic elements and the basic core belief that their audience has an imagination worth trying to tap into and explore.

Take a walk around the bands home co-ordinates and you might find some clues. Tan stretches of sand and the infinite blue horizon of the Atlantic could be bigger influences here than anything else. The relentless seasonal cycle might explain the bands desire to cover everything from gentle and placid to furious and destructive, all while maintaining a unified musical sensibility, and a fierce sense of adventure. Live in an area like this and you're bound to create something hopeful, inspiring and downright massive. Caspian wants to bring you to places like this and to places we all havent seen yet. This is an adventure - You are invited.

Bands toured/played with:
The Appleseed Cast
The Life and Times
The Pony's
Tarantula A.D.
Red Sparrowes
Steve Brodsky (Cave In)

Caspian has completed 4 full tours of the United States and Canada to promote their two official releases and have plans to promote their new record "The Four Trees" at home and abroad in 2007-2008.