WHISPER IT, BUT Hong Kong is keen on post-rock. Our city’s supposedly pop-saturated, ballad-addled music fans defy that stereotype by flocking in their numbers to gigs by bands that make a particular variety of subtle, complex, densely textured, constantly shifting music.
Witness the crowds at Canadian cult favourites Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s gig at The Vine in Wan Chai last April, for example; or at Japanese math-rock virtuosos Toe’s performance at Kitec the same month. And expect exactly the same sort of mania when Caspian play Hidden Agenda on March 10.
The mostly instrumental five-piece from Beverly, Massachusetts, have played at the venue once before, on their only trip to Asia, when they also performed in Guangzhou.
“There was a sense of enthusiasm and optimism among the youth culture that was really infectious and inspiring,” says guitarist Philip Jamieson. “We felt like our music works well in that kind of environment. People seem to be less selfconscious and more open to transcendent experiences and letting go of themselves.”
Post-rock bands generally use traditional rock instrumentation for distinctly non-rock ends, abandoning conventional song structures and using guitars mainly for sound texture rather than melody. Although glacial, frequently slow-moving and never traditionally structured, Caspian’s music does have some of the epic, anthemic qualities of traditional rock, with uplifting, chorus-like moments. The band most often compare their work to electronica and classical music, and there’s a distinctly symphonic quality to their music.
Formed in 2003, the band released their first album, The Four Trees, in 2007. Tertia followed in 2009, and in 2012 came Waking Season, a more restrained affair after the thunderous first two.
“Our main goal following Tertia was to try to find more depth to our music: more patience,” says Jamieson.
“With Waking Season we really wanted to stretch things out and have more faith that less can be more in terms of songwriting.
I approached a lot of my writing for that album almost from the perspective of minimalist electronica, like Four Tet or Burial, or something. That’s how I hear a lot of our music, to be honest, just filtered through the prism of rock music.”
The band has recently been touring the US and Europe, and Jamieson says that while the band’s live renditions of their songs are the same structurally as their recorded counterparts, the venue can have a significant impact on the end result, such atmospheric compositions being uniquely sensitive to acoustic differences.
“We do like places with bigger ceilings and wider spaces; it helps the audience let their feelings expand. Smaller rooms have a more direct, confrontational sound, which can be nice for the more aggressive material, but in general we prefer bigger rooms to let the sounds drift around and bounce off each other.
“We put a lot of trust in our audience to bring their imagination to the table when we perform and to let themselves go.
“We have faith that people who show up to a Caspian show want to let go of everything for 80 minutes and go on a journey with us, which makes every night enticing for us and keeps us on our toes.”
Caspian, March 10, 8.30pm, Hidden Agenda, 2A Wing Fu Industrial Building, 15-17 Tai Yip Street, Kwun Tong, HK$220 (advance), HK$250 (door). Inquiries: caspian.ticketflap.com