Caudal are one of those acts who seem to appear every so often, and when they do its always with something good. The Berlin-based trio, made up of Aidan Baker (guitar), Gareth Sweeney (bass), & Felipe Salazar (drums) refer to themselves as ‘trancepunk’, which seems to me to be a fairly accurate description of their laid back but never dull music which I always find manages to subtly grab you when you are least expecting it. The are something of a go to band for me when I am in a particular mood, I can’t really put my finger on when that is…but I know when it’s ‘Caudal time’… you’ll know too after you’ve listened to them… actually pretty much anything by them.
That’s not to say that what Caudal put out is all the same… far from it… but there is a certain atmosphere around their music that somehow just feels right… which is why I was really excited when Adam at Drone Rock Records told me he was releasing something by them… and now I’ve heard it I’m still excited.
As far as I’m aware this is the band’s third full length release – after 2013’s ‘Forever in Another World’ (an impulse buy from Oaken Palace Records for me (which I have never regretted)), and ‘Ascension’ in 2014 (released by Consouling Sounds) – and although I’m still only part the way down the road of fully appreciating it it’s still finding its way nicely into my musical soul.
The first thing to say here is that unlike the previous releases this album has more shorter tracks to it which works fine for me. Kicking off with ‘Intro’ which, as you may expect is a short overture which nicely gets you into the ‘Caudal sound’, and feels like the band warming up in a slightly frenetic manner before hitting the sunny uplands of ‘Well, I Suppose’. This initially feels like a chilled out ‘Daydream Nation’ era Sonic Youth, which by the way is my favourite album of theirs, before going off onto a journey all of its own. There is some fine interplay between the musicians here that gives that lovely mixture of tight playing with loose feeling… not an easy thing to do I would imagine.
After that ‘Divisible’ feels a little darker, the krautrock influences of the band now coming out a bit more strongly, especially through Salazar’s drums. Over the top Baker’s guitar is weaving a simple yet effective pattern, with Sweeney’s bass providing just the right level of support to allow the track to have plenty space to it. The overall effect, in my head at least, is of a sonic lattice through which you can entwine your thoughts and ideas. This is perhaps getting me closer to why I like Caudal’s music, it gives you space… but, crucially, still influences that space.
I tend to listen to albums the first few times without looking at any information on them, which it why I couldn’t work out at first why the next track ‘Slope’ was so familiar, that was until I realised that it was released in a longer version as a single (c/w Land) last year… I had had it on a Spotify playlist (you can now follow me on Spotify BTW ‘psychinsightmusic‘). This, then, gives me a good guide on how this album is going to be playing with me in a few months time. I have found ‘Slope’ to be a great slow track which has really got into my head at times. It’s certainly not the sort of music that insists that you listen to it… rather it offers an open invitation for you to engage with it… and when you do you find you have a friend for life. Here then is another realisation for me. This is music for introverts… that’s why I find it so absorbing.
Back into material that is new to me and ‘Flourish’ immediately heads off in a direction that has be grabbing my virtual encyclopaedia of genre because there seems to be so much going on here… so many different influences and directions. I quickly decide that this sort of deconstruction is going to be ultimately fruitless and concentrate more on the music itself. This is the sort of track which I imagine at times will leave me slightly restless, its almost telling you to get up an dance but not quite enough to get you there, the rhythms being varied and choppy. This is not a criticism rather a way of describing the paradox that seems to lie in track for me.
Next up are a couple of shorter numbers. ‘Low Red’ feels more understated here, with the drums mixed high and a lilting melody competing for attention while, just below there surface, lies an sense of uneasiness that you don’t quite get time to put your finger on. After that ‘Sunwashed’ feels upbeat and more positive with, for me, a feel of ‘Low Life’ era New Order, especially through Sweeney’s bass. This dissipates as the track moves on, especially through Salazar’s jazz drumming, with the track coming to a conclusion with some really nice soporific guitar work.
We’re getting towards the end of the album now with ‘The Blue Meds’, the beginning of which is the first time the band have really slowed things right down and taken stock. This longer track (eight minutes) is really given room to grow from the start, and here you get to see the Caudal’s nod to space rock structures which perhaps has been less apparent on here that on their previous works. Again this is the sort of track that gives you room to breathe, never forcing itself on you but, by the same token constantly reminding you that it’s there if you need it.
The final track on ‘Fight, Cry, Fight’ is ‘Duelo’, easily the most up front and in your face track on the album. This is has much more powerful feel to it… there’s an intent that seems hard to shake, not that you would particularly want to. This number has more angles and edges than the rest of this album and comes as a little bit of a shock on the first listen. It’s as if the band are jolting you out of whatever reverie you were in and bringing you back to reality. But then the final minute quietens down, as if the storm is over, and takes you back to that easy place… in fact you appreciate it more as a result… tough love!
I had high expectations of this album, expectations that have been met. Listening to it a few times now have helped me realise why I like Caudal. Like their other releases the vast majority of this album allows you room to just sit a be. Yet while there is this space it also challenges you on occasions, providing the catalyst to take you on to the next thing. It’s the sort of music that sits between the depressive and the ecstatic… containing elements of both yet knitted together in a way that creates a really nice balance between the two. For me the ‘Caudal time’ is when I’m feeling that sense of being in equilibrium and when I want to try to prolong that moment… it’s liminal music for that interstitial space that’s often hard to find, but when you do it’s just perfect.
“Fight, Cry, Fight” will be a run of 300 records, offered as a special or regular edition:-
150 copies on beer-coloured transparent heavyweight vinyl with red and white splatter effects. As usual, this version will be offered to Drone Rock Records mailing-list subscribers and previous customers first.
150 copies on beer-colour transparent vinyl.
Both versions are available to pre-order here.