Caldera Lakes is a recently formed duo of Eva Aguila and Brittany Gould. And it actually sounds pretty close to what you would imagine their collaboration would sound like based on their solo projects. It’s similar to a softer version of Kevin Shields or akin to a harsher version of Married in Berdichev. That’s definitely an oversimplification though, because their collaboration effortlessly produces some of the most sublime sounds I’ve ever heard.
The first of the album’s four tracks, “Snowstorm”, begins with an eerie though calming female coo. Before too long, electronic scrapes puncture the entrancing spell being cast, spiking at equal intervals. It’s almost invisible but there is a higher register vocal counter melody that is married beautifully with the main vocal loop. A number of delayed sounds float in and out before a tempered eruption of distorted vocals and noise. The effect evoked with the pairing of Gould’s peaceful vocal loops and the agitated harshness of Aguila’s noise manipulation is incredibly beautiful and even makes me a little emotional somehow. The harshness ceases and more barely audible sounds are layered and cycled as the piece drifts to a close. This piece is profoundly expressive; it takes a sampling of the entire spectrum of sound and births an entirely coherent work of art that creates so many sensations and feelings in me that I don’t know where to begin. They’re probably private anyway, so maybe it’s for the best.
Sorry to get all sentimental on you there for a second, the next track, “Shotgun #2”, at 11.5 minutes is the longest track on the album. Commencing with a bassy synth pulse and a percussive rubbing sound, Gould sings about chiming birds and going to the forest with a shotgun. A few plinking tones are chopped and repeated against a vague electronic swelling. The duo do an amazing job keeping you suspended in anticipation. The track feels like it’s on the verge of an upsurge for the majority of its length. I was guessing there would be a point where the track explodes out of nowhere, but they fooled me. Instead a robust flurry of noise is gradually built in the track’s tail end before dropping out leaving a short loop of vocals and chimes.
The instant-classic “Tornado” is next. Unlike the previous two tracks it begins in jarring nature with a mechanical throb which Gould sings over as Aguila whips up all sorts of gliding tones and feedback freakouts. Over a glorious vocal loop and noisy squall, Gould really exhibits her vocal abilities. I’m no vocal coach or anything but she has exceptional range and control. Her voice, to me, is roughly a midpoint between Björk and Liz Harris—and it’s as beautiful as that sounds, maybe more so. The interplay between Gould’s voice and Aguila’s machinery is phenomenal, the intensity of the piece moves through peaks and valleys. The smoothness of Gould’s vocal and the jagged crash and squelch of Aguila’s efforts seem like utter opposites (and maybe they are) but this song is evidence they were destined to be together. This piece is so tightly paced and constructed (a signature of Aguila’s solo work) that at eight minutes it flies by. There’s a lot more dimensions to the track than I’ve covered here, but I’m not really sure how to capture them.
“We Never Talked About it”, the shortest track, closes the album. In atypical fashion for this record, heavy static noise is applied thickly at the front of track and is slowly stripped away. Gould’s soft vocal competes with Aguila’s noisy tantrums against a minimal bed of tones. Just when it appears the noise has won, a lullaby emerges and is sung until the record’s end.
This is one of those releases where words fail or at least my words fail. I feel all I can really do is talk highly of the album because everything else I’ve written is woefully ineffective at communicating the beauty of this record. Though, that was never really the point. Eva and Brittany have already communicated it to you; I’m just the unnecessary middleman. Anyhow, you must hear this. If it’s not a masterpiece, it’s pretty goddam close. And to hear records this incredible coming from them so early in their formation makes me giddy for the future. Fuck the financial crisis and all that, everything will be fine as long as Caldera Lakes keep putting out records.
Caldera Lakes is available now on Sentient Recognition Archive. It comes in a cardboard slipcase with semi-appropriate/semi-misleading soothing artwork. The CD looks professionally printed with a cute/creepy scan of a young paper doll and accessories. And if you’re living in Europe right now go have, what is sure to be, a life-affirming experience at one of the shows on the Caldera Lakes/Kevin Shields/Married in Berdichev tour, lucky bastards.