Caswell largely returns to this more spiritual side on his debut album for Spring Theory. Hoop Earring doesn't quite put on the full tie-dye kaftan, but it's coloured with many of the new age tropes beloved by some of his Southern California contemporaries. The track subtitles "(Step 1)" and "(Step 2)" have overtones of self-help books, and Caswell has said that the album is about "growing past and through a place of comfort." There's also more than a whiff of fragrant smoke here. The opening and closing tracks seem to billow out and dissipate like incense, and the music in between often curls into lovely shapes that barely linger before they're gone.
Hoop Earring can feel either alluring or frustratingly lethargic, depending on your state of mind. Two of the most propulsive tracks, "Introduction To WS" and "Danny's Telephone Voice," come near the beginning of the album. From that point on, the rhythms slow almost to a crawl. By the beautifully aquatic "Here We Guard Upon The Soul," they've dropped out altogether. The following "31514726 (Step 2)," which revolves around a guitar motif that crackles like a campfire, also goes for the soothing and celestial. But the frisky house of "DYC," though far from banging, feels about as jarring as nosebleed gabba following "Joy Tel"'s eight minutes of ambient meandering.
Still, "DYC" gives Hoop Earring a welcome shot of energy. If there's one criticism of Caswell's ambient productions it's that, for all their beauty, they're sometimes too light and insubstantial for their own good. But as a showcase of Caswell's two musical personalities, Hoop Earring is a qualified success, even if it fails to form a coherent whole.