The long distance duo Capers revitalize at least 3 genres, on their debut.
Do you remember when jazz was the cutting edge? When synth pop and electronica promised us tantalizing glimpses of the exciting future, right around the corner?Oh, you don't? That's because it hasn't been true for most of our lifetimes, or since we were in diapers and playpens, at least.
Capers is the long distance duo of vocalist Claire Randall and guitarist/producer Tim Boughton. The pair have been collaborating for the last 6 years, and have finally got around to putting the necessary time and energy into Capers to yield their latest release entitled Garden Line EP. This was a wise investment, as this short blast of beats, synths, layered, soulful vocals, and liquid guitar is a thrilling ride, beyond labels, showing just how much two people can do, these days.
The closest label that Capers orbit would be what is called Future Pop, which was first used to describe an industrial update on '80s synthpop, but later adapted to include the electronic bedroom mutations of artists like Grimes, the post-trap pop rock of BØRNS, as well as the hip hop deconstructions of Childish Gambino.
Capers aren't trying to ride anyone else's train, however. Instead, the inspiration for the Garden Line EP is based on timeless musical structures: tension and release, harmonies and the pure sound of Randall's voice, which grabs you by the ears and sends shivers down your spine. Her voice has the '20s jazz flavor of someone coming up on Joanna Newsom, but instead of trying to evoke a particular period of time, it seems that Randall has adopted the language of jazz for its acerbic dissonance, which make the resolutions that much sweeter, like coming home after a nine month road trip.
The production and arrangements are top notch, from start to finish, as can be heard in the first fifteen seconds of the first song, the eponymous "Garden Line", with its hypnotic, minimalist handclaps, exploding into a undulating guitar line, like a heat haze over a highway. It builds and builds, coasting along, but never really breaking, until the sudden left turn of "Rides", which detours from 1914 to 2027, with a broken breakbeat, and expressionist synth squiggles, set against a backdrop of pure gelatin. Capers are a wonderful example of the challenges facing a modern music journalist, citing influences from Radiohead to Meshell Ndegéocello to Radiohead. Traditionally, a jazz critic would not have to be familiar with the rules of r&b, soul, or bluegrass, but this is the world we are living in. A world beyond hard, straight lines and easy answers.
Simply put, Capers are a breath of fresh air for people who love the complexity and musicianship of jazz, but are mistrustful of the deadly nostalgia that comes along with it. It's all too easy to think, "Things were better in 1922." Is that really true? Yes, there was a lot of stellar musicians operating at the time, and a lot of exciting social developments, but we'd hardly touched the suffrage movement, let alone civil rights, so it's a little reductive to view that past with rosy lenses.
Instead, Capers offer a new way - a way beyond influences and words. Claire Randall extracts the longing and uncertainty in the in-between notes, which Tim Boughton's productions capture admirably. Forget future pop. This is music for the Eternal Now, speaking in a timeless vocabulary of wordless longing. The whole thing is a scant 11 minutes, perfect for endless repetitions, and that's exactly what you should do.
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