+Caregiver+ - Emptiness Is Form (Outcast Tape Infirmary)

Blackgaze is a genre I’ve always tried to like. On paper, it’s music I should eat up with delight, with identifiers like ‘swirling guitars’ and ‘trance-inducing atmospheres’ that tick all my boxes. What’s not to love, after all, about pedal experimentation and illusive post-rock textures in your black metal? Sadly, practitioners of the cross-genre tradition have only rarely delivered on its initial promise. I’ve tried so many of the big names—Ghost Bath, Møl, Sylvaine—but never really connected with any of them. If it wasn’t for the integrative efforts of Flenser-backed powerhouses like Bosse-de-Nage and Planning for Burial, I would never have learned about blackgaze’s capacity as a secondary flavour. Thankfully, all the patience and searching finally seem to be bearing fruit in the reverb-drenched melancholy of Tennessean group, +Caregiver+.

Emptiness is Form is a mission statement demarcating the band from the seemingly unending, mawkish wankery that predominates today’s blackgaze circuit. Haunted by Alcest-style melodies, the EP explores dreamy, ethereal soundscapes, while still keeping the tone sombre, only teasing the major-scale harmonies Neige has lately adopted. Even the lengthier tracks barely exceed the five-minute mark, so don’t expect any long-form, monolithic walls of sound. Instead, +Caregiver+ keep the listener engaged with song structures so episodic and dynamic that there’s no room to drift off. Utilising hardcore and screamo tactics was clearly key in maintaining this high level energy—and, ultimately, in winning me over. There are even some Today is the Day moments, when the scratchy, almost tortured-sounding riffage seems to infect the stony-eyed shoegazing.

All told, no song on the album feels uninspired, which shouldn’t come as any surprise given the band’s influences range ostensibly from Anthony Green to Peter Gabriel. Sometimes, this variety results in undercooked decisions, like the off-message acoustic interlude, the chuckle-inducing breakdown section in the middle of “This is not for you”, and production that often does bassist Ryan Davis a disservice. But even if +Caregiver+ still have some lessons to learn in restraint, Emptiness is Form is the sound of a band with great potential. Making blackgaze that feels so youthful and fresh deserves recognition in itself, and I am more than eager to follow this band’s journey, as they set out to refurbish a genre that’s been corroding far too long.