Original photo by Jake Kenny.
caroline - caroline
ALBUM REVIEW BY CALLUM CAMPBELL
ROUGH TRADE RECORDS 2022
Anyone who has ever tried to write a bio on a dating profile or LinkedIn, or on their workplace's 'meet the team' page, knows how notoriously difficult they are to write. One done well does come in handy though, particularly for bands you've never heard of; as I found when I first happened upon dark blue by caroline. Theirs said: "caroline evolved out of weekly improvisation sessions. [...] The group spent a year and a half playing privately, without a project name. Reiterating, deconstructing and re-building the same small handful of songs over and over again."
If I'm honest, I don't make a habit of reading band bios, but I dusted off the quote marks here because for me, this quote brings forth the essence of what this album - caroline's debut self-titled record - is. Even though the songs are recorded and therefore the same for every listen, the fact that they were created during improvisation sessions comes through in the music. What does this mean, then? An improvisational recording…? Well the songs can be long, repetitive and formless at times, bar a steady chord progression or background harmony that serves as a marker the other elements float around. They sometimes shift in unexpected directions, and from what I can tell, there is some sound experimentation too. These traits might sound like negatives but nah; they come together to lend the songs a meditative quality. This is a record you can really sink into.
Back to the bio. It's notable that that 'year and a half playing privately' was from 2017-2018; 4-5 years prior to the release of this album in 2022. That's 4-5 years of regurgitation, time to reflect, trial, error and growth with these songs. While I can't know for sure, I feel like this does come through in the music. Despite beginning as improvisations, the songs feel considered; particularly in what I will clumsily call the hit points - the points of each song that the music is building towards. The parts you feel. This is a record of many emotions - urgency, tranquility - but in particular of real tenderness. Whether it's an acoustic guitar playing a delicate refrain alone, repetitions seemingly increasing in importance each time, or harmonies flying at the inflection point of IWR, this record achieves a level of emotional intelligence that artists spend careers chasing. All of which can't have surfaced from their first improv session alone, surely.
If you're looking for hooks, I'm afraid they are few and far between on this album. There is the odd line whose melody might catch your fancy, but at its heart this is an album that you chuck on and let it capture you, rather than you it. It's not trying to grab your attention, I don't think it's even really asking you to listen. You're just drawn into its lure and once there, you're invited to share in the human experience of tenderness, comfort, tension and that oh-so-sweet release. It's a beautiful thing.
Watch the music video for 'Good morning (red)' below.
2. Good morning (red)
5. messen #7
6. Engine (eavesdropping)
8. Skydiving onto the library roof
10. Natural death