Sunday, January 18, 2009


Excellent stuff. Valter on Caina. I still haven't got round to responding to his earlier post on music-as-gift. I wonder what Poetix made of this release.

I recently submitted a bit on Caina to a well-known music publication, but unfortunately it wasn't used, leaving me free to put it up here, I guess. I was asked to edit it down quite substantially, which was an interesting enough process in itself (well it was a first for me) so I'll stick both versions up.






Caina is apparently “Doom” and certainly on the discerning metalheadz label-of-choice Profound Lore but this shouldn’t be allowed to affect our judgement of just who and what he is. Doom? No. Metalgaze? Drone? Black Metal? Nope.

Caina is in fact vastly more interesting and important than any generic pigeonholing would suggest. His first album, the wistful, plangent, brutalised “Mourner” with it’s desperate yearning for belief, (“break yourself on rocks”) was a testimonial to the submerged, disavowed history of Britain over the past twenty five years, the grim, strangulated state of the nation behind the bright fa├žade, a missive from those left to drift and dream through late Capitalist stagnation. It was an album steeped in a sense of both history and history’s end, “Wormwood over Albion.” A bedsit eschatology cobbled together from second hand paperbacks on Crowley and Swedonborg, from death metal and millennial folk.

With “Temporary Antennae” it’s clear from the first track “Manuscript found in an unmarked grave 1919”, as its blustery silver-grey drones and pinwheeling wind chimes give way to a quote from William Hope Hodgeson, (author of “The House on the Borderland” the novel that obsesses the central character of Ian Sinclair’s “ Radon Daughters”) that we are within a particular continuum of Englishness. Caina, self-styled “ cartographer of misery,” is part of a long tradition of English hermetic discontent and his work owes much more to John Martyn, Nick Drake, the Smiths, Durruti Column, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine and their unfairly usurped heirs both sonically and in terms of sensibility than it does to presumed influences like Sabbath or Burzum.

The Brit Pop/Cool Britannia counter-revolution lumped us with a culture of permanent recycling. Caina’s work is both a continuation of the modernist impulses of post-rock bands like Disco Inferno and Bark Psychosis and a result of their having been banished to the margins by the arrival of Suede et al and the inauguration of Pop as heritage industry. Increasingly metal has served as the arena in which those fabled smart, disaffected, trapped kids go for kicks and it’s precisely that toxic, invigorating injection of metal that has allowed Caina to expand on this lineage. Metal certainly has its dreary Hipster contingent, but one among many of Cainas’v irtues is his deep, almost subterranean unfashionability. In a world of compulsive irony Caina is bracingly earnest and unashamedly pretentious. If the Urban is the locus of all innovation an excitement, Caina is determinedly provincial and rural. Gadfly networking and collaborative eclecticism is the default artistic mode? Caina is singularly insular and withdrawn. “Temporary Antenae” is much closer to the frail, serotonin-depeleted pastoralism of Crescent or the chiming, autumnal ruinology of July Skies than it is to any of his label mates.


This doesn’t mean of course that he doesn’t also know how to rock out when required. “Ten men went up river” a kind of sonic analogue to James Dickey’s “Deliverance” kicks of with a staccato riff, all dully serrated ferrous sheen and pointed determination that’s slowly overwhelmed by long idling waterways and ends up mired in a humid, flybown backwater. “Tobacco Beetle” rapidly acquires monolithic critical mass then slowly unravels before surging skyward again on massive tarnished wings. Elsewhere the mood is more bucolic. “Willows and Whipporwills’” luminous guitar line is slowly eaten away by a noxious fug of grey noise and Caina’s slough-of-despond growling. The title track goes through several movements, from almost Gregorian vocal interplay into heavy-weather shoegaze drone, culminating in a surging, Motorik drum-machine driven finale, while “ Larval Door” with it’s drum pattern stolen from the Cure’s “In between days” and lyrical guitar is positively jaunty. Throughout a wracked English pantheism prevails, a pervasive sense of fragile and hard won beauty being overwhelmed, of moments of violent struggle against an all embracing and seductive torpor.


In short, a superb and heartening record, a record that reminds you that all is not yet lost. The quintessential Romantic figure, the pale, eternally questing, brilliant malcontent, sick with dreams and raging at reality has found another expression here, skulking through the ruined industry, the half-dead towns and the overgrown graveyards. It makes little difference whether the book stuffed in his back pocket is Ballard or Blake, whether the music in his head phones is Bowie or Bathory: he is a true son of England.



and the edit.



It’s clear from “Temporary Antennae’s” first track “Manuscript found in an unmarked grave 1919”, its blustery silver-grey drones and pinwheeling wind chimes give way to a quote from William Hope Hodgeson, that we are within a particular continuum of Englishness. Caina, self-styled “cartographer of misery,” is part of a long tradition of English hermetic discontent and his work owes much more to John Martyn, Nick Drake, the Smiths, Durruti Column, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine and their unfairly usurped heirs both sonically and in terms of sensibility than it does to presumed influences like Sabbath or Burzum.

The Brit Pop/Cool Britannia counter-revolution lumped us with a culture of permanent recycling. Caina’s work is both a continuation of the modernist impulses of post-rock bands like Disco Inferno and Bark Psychosis and a result of their having been banished to the margins by the arrival of Suede et al and the inauguration of Pop as heritage industry. Increasingly metal has served as the arena in which those fabled smart, disaffected, trapped kids go for kicks and it’s precisely that toxic, invigorating injection of metal that has allowed Caina to expand on this lineage. Metal certainly has its dreary Hipster contingent, but one among many of Cainas’ virtues is his deep, almost subterranean unfashionability. In a world of compulsive irony Caina is bracingly earnest and unashamedly pretentious. If the Urban is the locus of all innovation an excitement, Caina is determinedly provincial and rural. Gadfly networking and collaborative eclecticism is the default artistic mode? Caina is singularly insular and withdrawn. “Temporary Antenae” is much closer to the frail, serotonin-depeleted pastoralism of Crescent or the chiming, autumnal ruinology of July Skies than it is to any of his label mates.


This doesn’t mean of course that he doesn’t also know how to rock out when required. “Ten men went up river” a kind of sonic analogue to James Dickey’s “Deliverance” kicks of with a staccato riff, all dully serrated ferrous sheen and pointed determination that’s slowly overwhelmed by long idling waterways and ends up mired in a humid, flybown backwater. “Tobacco Beetle” rapidly acquires monolithic critical mass then slowly unravels before surging skyward again on massive tarnished wings. Elsewhere the mood is more bucolic. “Willows and Whipporwills’” luminous guitar line is slowly eaten away by a noxious fug of grey noise and Caina’s slough-of-despond growling. The title track goes through several movements, from almost Gregorian vocal interplay into heavy-weather shoegaze drone, culminating in a surging, Motorik drum-machine driven finale, while “ Larval Door” with it’s drum pattern stolen from the Cure’s “In between days” and lyrical guitar is positively jaunty. Throughout a wracked English pantheism prevails, a pervasive sense of fragile and hard won beauty being overwhelmed, of moments of violent struggle against an all embracing and seductive torpor.

2 comments:

Dominic said...

Listened to "Mourner" again on the way home today. As a youthful attempt at a blackened Sigur Ros it's impressive, and "Wormwood over Albion" is a serious accomplishment, one where he really nails it (really nice Red House Painters inflections in that one, but it's also significantly more than the sum of its parts). It reinforced my impression that his best work's still in front of him, though - the sense of purpose and atmospheric sensitivity, is very striking, but it's definitely early days as far as execution is concerned.

In deference to the man's outspoken hostility to freetards, I'll cough up for a proper copy of Temporary Antennae and give it a listen. Mr Curtis-Brignell is defnitely a major talent!

Andy said...

This is the most interesting piece of writing about me/my work that I've yet read, thank you. Also thanks for proving that the internet can be a place of thought and pleasure as well as dead-eyed, priapic detachment.

Also, I have new things out or coming out, which are detailed on the myspace page should you care to have a look.

Best wishes,
Andy/Caina