Brainwashed – Caldera Lakes

Written by Anthony D’Amico
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Two artists that I am largely unfamiliar with (Brittany Gould of Married in Berdichev! and Eva Aguilera of Kevin Shields) have formed a band together and unexpectedly floored me with an EP of fractured, otherworldly beauty. I wish surprises like this occurred more often in my life.

Caldera Lakes was an extremely good idea: Eva’s harsh power electronics are the perfect foil for Brittany’s woozy and spooky acappella excursions. The sum here is greater than the individual parts, as Eva’s talents are much easier to appreciate in a more melodic environment, while Brittany’s narcotized beauty is enhanced by the visceral heft of Aguilera’s violent bursts of dissonance.

“Snowstorm” begins with a simple and eerie looped vocal melody. It is gradually augmented by subtle shimmering and scratchy ambiance, while rhythmic stabs of harsh white noise regularly disrupt the alien and womblike bliss. The noise becomes increasingly invasive as the track progresses and eventually takes over completely before vanishing and leaving only the floating, melancholy vocal loop. The effect is not unlike flipping through radio stations late at night and finding an unfamiliar, heart-stopping, and totally unexpected song, then having it be mutilated by fading reception, but desperately hoping for a few more fragments to pierce through the static squall. This is exactly what I want from noise music.

Eva and Brittany misstep a bit with the stuttering, glitchy “Shotgun #2,” although it eventually coheres into a fairly impressive and pummeling white noise assault near the end. Fortunately, “Tornado” is a welcome (and possibly even superior) return to the brilliant aesthetic of the opening track. A machine-like rhythm, howling storms of white noise, and feedback all fight to drown out Brittany’s sleepy mangled vocals, lo-fi Bjork-isms, and wavering mutant nocturnal forest sounds. The closing track, “We Never Talked About It,” doesn’t play to the band’s strengths, as it errs a bit too much on the side of harshness and Brittany’s vocals are a bit too goth-y and plaintive, but it still ends strongly on a haunting and lovelorn-sounding vocal loop.

I suppose I cannot enthusiastically proclaim this to be a masterpiece, as I only loved half of the songs. However, the tough part is out of the way for Caldera Lakes: they already have a stunning, unique, and recognizable aesthetic. Hopefully, they will continue to get better and better at consistently finding the perfect balance between beauty and chaos, but it doesn’t matter if they do. Even one song as good as “Tornado” or “Snowstorm” per album is enough to maintain my enthusiasm.