Caulbearer is a relatively unheard of, if not completely new project from a world of music that borders the barrier between noise and dark ambient. The project was born in 2010 and is made up of a simple duo — Cody Spencer Drasser and Benjamin Roe Jr. — whom recorded the tracks found here in the opening Winter months of 2011-2012 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Austin, Texas respectively. Though the acknowledgement that these two artists are all but interweaving shadows in the vast world of noise and ambient music and non-music, one figure stands tall, stretching his gnarled fingers towards the light as he always has; that figure is the prolific producer and musician James Plotkin, known not only for his solo work, but also for that in Khanate, O.L.D., Lotus Eaters and many others. Anything that this man is a part of on the mastering end of things typically comes out with an artistic production that is exactly what the music calls for. It isn’t always beautiful, sometimes it’s filthy and grotesque, and that’s precisely what you’ll find here with Caulbearer’s debut.
A caulbearer is — you guessed it — one who bears a caul, but the caul is much stranger than you may realize or think. The caul itself is actually a membrane that can accompany a newborn’s head during birth and can be otherwise known as the “veil of tears” or just simply the “veil”. As explained by the “Caul Bearers United” website, “There are two types of cauls. One type, which appears to be the more common of the two, is the thin, transparent amniotic lining which becomes tightly formed to the infant’s head during the birthing process and is easily removed. The other type, less common, is the thick, skin-like covering which is looped around the ears. This one must be carefully removed, as it literally has attachment points on the scalp and face, and is a “second skin”. It is said to have the DNA of the child…” There aren’t many notable caulbearers in the history of man, but of the few that are mentioned are the legendary poet Lord Byron, and the famous 19th century actor Edwin Thomas Booth.
As mentioned, the music of Caulbearer borders somewhere between the sound of noise and dark ambient — it’s minimal and ethereal but somehow abrasive at the same time. It has elements of drone but is decisively raw. Its structure remains constant through tracks but the details are in the building of the tracks where, when the volume swells, different complex, abstract characteristics of the music can be heard and sometimes defined. The music seems to resemble the characteristics of harsh noise wall of the ‘harsh’ was replaced by an adjective more related to the album title itself; ghostly, intangible. True, “Haunts” is a perfect title for this album, recreating that which is both violent and beautiful in death through subtle shifts in sound and production. The music could also be seen as reminiscent of the area that surrounds these two musicians, following the ghosts that roam the desert lands of the American Southwest, from the ancient eras of the indigenous Pueblo tribes stretching up through the arrival of the conquistadors all the way into the modern-day. It is music that reaches back through time, sometimes simply existing in a guttural, primal drone for minutes at a time, and sometimes finally burgeoning to a climax of violent disposition.
Unfortunately, while the music shows a great deal of promise, the actual release itself falls to very amateur depths. The packaging of the album itself is the worst part of the album and resides on the far low-end of what a homemade CD-R release could be. It comes as a simple white CD-R with no information or writing whatsoever and a matte finish. Beyond this, the album is at least packaged in a jewel case instead of a slim-line CD-R case, but the artwork itself leaves a lot to be desired. There are two inserts, including the front cover, which, along with the back cover, is a regular printer paper cut-out. The front cover fits in so loosely that the label or the artist has scotch taped the corners of one end to make it stay in the case. The images were also printed at a low quality so the text is choppy at best and the printed insert is difficult to read. Of course, the music is the most important part of any release, but the fact that the physical product here is of such a low quality begs the question “why wasn’t this just released digitally?,” especially since the album is limited to a mere 15 copies. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but it seems that if you’re going to release a product that contains your art — something that is beyond personal to many — you should strive to make it as perfect to your vision as possible in every respect.
The good news? Apparently this album is being released again in a new version, utilizing the album cover featured here. So if you happen to find yourself interested in this album, don’t be dissuaded by the packaging quality — just seek out the forthcoming new version.
01) The Absorbing Ghost Pt. I
02) The Absorbing Ghost Pt. II
03) Siege Machines Pt. I
04) Siege Machines Pt. II
05) Siege Machines Pt. III
06) Shipwrecked Cathedrals Pt. I
07) Shipwrecked Cathedrals Pt. II
08) Shipwrecked Cathedrals Pt. III
09) Infinite Rooms of the Afterlife Pt. I
10) Infinite Rooms of the Afterlife Pt. II