[Reviewed by: vitriol]
Caudal has only released one recording prior to this one, “Forever In Another World” in 2013. Its members are Aidan Baker (of Nadja fame) in guitar, Gareth Sweeney of Gout in bass and Felipe Salazar of Muerte En Pereira in drums. Baker is Canadian, Sweeney is Irish and Salazar is Colombian, and yet the band is based in Berlin. Their new album, “Ascension” is released by Consouling Sounds and contains three long tracks, about 42 minutes in total. A special mention must be made to the beautiful cover art created by Irish painter Eoin Llewellyn.
Anyone who expects a guitar drone extravaganza such as the ones Aidan Baker has spoiled us with, is in for a surprise: “Ascension” is basically a progressive / krautrock album, with Aidan Baker’s heavy hand lending the sound a contemporary, post-rock fuzziness. Some parts of the first track for instance could have come right out of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”. Except that the atmosphere here is not as warm as in psychedelic rock, instead this laid-back combination of rhythmic and melodic threads is given with a minimalism that emits a cold light, more akin to space rock than anything else.
“Uprise” is a long, atmospheric track with the three instruments tangled into one another in a gradual escalation. An uprise is indeed the sensation one gets from it. Around the middle of the 20-minute track the rhythmic sequence is interrupted by droning, meditational guitars and electronics in a relaxing intermission – which however does not last very long. The drones are disrupting the smoothness of sound by popping here and there unexpectedly, like little bubbles playfully spoiling the surface of a serene lake. Very soon the rhythmic drums become intense and powerful again, and the guitar and bass pick up their previous roles even more intensely and the track ends in an intoxicating climax. A fascinating track that despite its length holds the attention intact, reminiscent of bands such as Hawkwind, Amon Düül II and the more psychedelic, drifting parts of early Pink Floyd.
In “Slow Bow” the sound is considerably more modern, drifting into post-rock territory, with its shoegaze melodies and distorted drone guitars with the ‘dirty’ sound that are Aidan Baker’s trademark. A lethargic melody droning around layers and layers of guitar haze, and in the midst of it all the drums trying to stand out among this drowning vortex of sounds. As the first segment of the track ends all the instruments fade out into a temporary semi-silence. When they reappear a little later the sound is clearer, the fuzzy guitar drones have given their place to the melodic bass, and the guitar creeps in from behind with its expansive, shrill tones. It sounds as if all the stars in the sky are humming in your ear at the same time. The sound just keeps getting richer and denser and louder, and the layers keep piling up one on top of the other until the whole thing explodes in an orgasmic supernova. I wouldn’t normally use the word ‘mindblowing’ in a review but this is exactly what this track is.
After these 17 minutes of space rock panorama, “451S2” closes the album in an abstract description of what happens after the detonation. Once the giant star has exploded, the stardust is floating in space forming a pattern that is momentarily suspended in the vacuum. The first couple of minutes are very atmospheric, even ambient. Some environmental sounds start to enter the landscape: the chirping of birds, the reverberations of some chords, vaguely metallic-sounding electronics. Then we return to the familiar minimalistic prog-rock marathon of the first track. With the same laid back rhythm and the same clearness of sound and the same distinct role for each instrument. Because after any given event every object gets back into orbit, the world keeps turning as it always will, and it stops its course for noone.
In a sky full of stars, everything seems immobile and silent. Yet behind their curtain of stillness these primordial forces are constantly moving, constantly changing, following a rhythm we cannot hear. In its invigorating amalgam of the contemporary and the traditional, this recording gives the impression of defining movement in the immobility of space. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I’m sure will be the case for any fan of bands such as Pink Floyd (especially their early stuff when Barrett was still part of the band), Hawkwind, Amon Düül II, even Popol Vuh and Klaus Schulze. But the album will also appeal to fans of Nadja and Aidan Baker’s solo works, as well as any post-rock, shoegaze enthusiast who tends to the more experimental, fusion side of these musical currents. The only contemporary project I can think of that combines this traditional, old-school spacey vibe with modern sound so successfully is the Canadian duo AUN – although the music itself is somewhat different. “Ascension” is an inspiring re-interpretation of classic genres, infused with originality and compositional elements from scenes that are now at the peak of their creativity. I strongly suggest you give this trio of extremely talented gentlemen a chance, if nothing more because they’ve put out a great album.