It’s been three years since Candy Claw released Hidden Lands, their third album of obscure experimental textures that could almost fit as a weird offspring of Animal Collective’s earlier recordings. Hidden Lands was a beautiful excursion into nature romanticism where they fed Richard M Ketchum’s The Secret Life of the Forest back and forth into a translation program while accompanying it with experimental keyboard arrangements. But Hidden Lands, just as any of Candy Claws prior offerings, drifted off into abstract textures without any sense of explicit harmonies. So it’s rather surprising that we get an album sounding like Ceres & Calypso In The Deep Time and one might wonder just what exactly happened during their three years of silence.
They are still stuck in a weird thematic approach to storytelling, with Ceres & Calypso being divided into three parts where each of the band members play a different character as they travel through the three periods of the Mesozoic era (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous). The title of each song is based on the poems of Jen Morea (as well as the lyrics itself) followed by the title of the music that accompanies the poem (sort of explains the duality of each song title). No, it doesn’t make much sense but then again their lyrics never did. And as with most of their previous work, the vocals remain largely inaudible which makes the storyline rather unessential when approaching the album.
The record spans a variety of genres that are beautifully encapsulated in playful psychedelic textures and creative songwriting. Compared to their previous albums, there is a well-thought-out approach to songwriting with a clear sense of structure, but without abandoning their fluid textures and experimental soundscapes. What strikes me the most is their wonderfully weird sense of melodic construction. Whether you take the drugged-out psychedelia of “Transitional Bird – Clever Girl”, the Waltz-y “Fern Praire – Charade” or the Tarantino-esque Spaghetti Western of “Fallen Tree Bridge – Brave Rainbow Rider”, Candy Claws provides it with a startling melodious screw that falls beyond the span of imagination. The chord progression and harmonious shifts of “New Forrest – Five Heads of the Sun” takes song structures to dazzling new territories that finds the band exploring grounds that is wholly unlike any other psychedelic record, or any record for that matter.
The most impressive trait of Ceres & Calypso is that you’re never sure of what you’r listening to. It’s almost impossible to put any of its offerings in a suitable category. The songs shifts and morphs in and out of divergent textures, where one can recognize bits and pieces from a wide variety of genres and decades, but just as one would like to name drop an influence, the song transforms into something entirely new, leaving even the most experienced musical explorer clueless of what’s being offered to him/her.
Candy Claws, a band that’s been largely outside of trends, suddenly finds themselves in the smack middle of the zeitgeist of 2013 with an album that manage to fuse wonderfully strange psychedelics with tape warped shoegazing. Ceres & Calypso feels like a joyous and vital mixture of Youth Lagoon and My Bloody Valentine without owing too much to any of them (and quite frankly I would rather leave any genre classification or resembles aside, because none would do it justice).
There’s a valid critique that the frequencies are unfortunately pretty much squashed into the middle, leaving too much space in the bottom. One would have wished for a more carefully sort-out production, but disregarding this obvious flaw, there is still no way around that Ceres & Calypso is one of this year’s most characteristic and musically impressive albums. It’s a fearless and disparate journey that goes further down the rabbit hole than most bands care or dare to travel. And beneath it all is a foundation of inventive melodies and catchy songwriting with great attention to detail that shapes Ceres & Calypso In The Deep Time into an extraordinary triumph.
- Candy Claws – Transitional Bird (Clever Girl) (ifoundmusic.com)
- Candy Claws – “Transitional Bird (Clever Girl)” (stream) (Mixed Media) (popmatters.com)