Album Reviews

The Appleseed Cast – Middle States

on June 14, 2011, 8:00am
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The Appleseed Cast is not a band even dedicated indie music aficionados seem to think about frequently. The band so readily slips between the cracks of emo, indie and vocal post-rock, it’s almost tempting to label it shoegaze. It’s certainly not emo anymore, not even second-wave. And the quiet niche that is post-rock nerds don’t hype the band with unceasing praise that Unwed Sailor or Godspeed You! Black Emperor receive.

That’s not to say the Lawrence, Kansas quartet isn’t worthy of acclaim. Its most recent EP, Middle States, is a rare, skilled demonstration of what a post-rock band can do the extended player format.

On the EP’s lead track, “End Frigate Constellation”, the band’s guitars both roar and hum softly, the drums splash and confidently march in the right places, the bass both provides a tonal bottom for it all to stand on and, occasionally provides a song’s main instrumental melody, cribbing from post-punk.

The lead track, the EP’s best, is the only one with lyrics. To my ears, they work mostly as placeholder sounds. Singer/guitarist Christopher Crisci seems to use his voice as an instrument, layering extra melodies on top of an aural cup that washes over with sound. With echo-laden vocal samples and other actualities on top that (including a disconcerting police siren in “Interlude”), it makes the end result almost unbearably dense. It’s off-putting to some listeners, perhaps, but wonderful for audiophiles, among others.

It’s enough to make even a fairly seasoned Appleseed Cast listener forget that the band used to straight-up ape Sunny Day Real Estate. Like many brilliant bands in music history, Appleseed Cast faked it ‘til it made it.

It’s made it with Middle States. Appleseed Cast is firmly in a sonic place where it’s mined Sunny Day’s richest instrumental essences, along with like-minded ‘90s emo bands like American Football and Braid, to become a bonafide post-rock band that can confidently play alongside and in some senses surpass, Explosions in the Sky. “Three Rivers”, an instrumental 14-minute mood piece that fills out half of the EP, has more gradient grace, rhythm and patience than most Explosions songs.

Any listener that’s ever heard a twinkly-guitar emo/screamo band and found its vocals a bit melodramatic and its arrangements boring should give The Appleseed Cast an honest shot. Maybe then, the band wouldn’t slip between the cracks like it does.

6 comments

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guest
March 10, 2012 at 12:28 am

If you think they “made it” with this ep, you’ve obviously never ever heard mare vitalis. and “straight-up ape SDRE”? cmon.  

Fred
August 23, 2011 at 12:58 am

I don’t think they ever faked it. There music has always had a thread of slight genious to it. They found themselves on LL1&2. But come on, there precussion has always been top notch. Most indie bands today can’t even hold a candle to the drumming and delicate builds they manage to create. What they’re capable of doing with reverb and feedback is just plan short of epic. They’ve turned much of atmospheric rock into a science and I think that’s why they succeed still. I just wish they’d get a better label, heap more recognition and take some more risks with their soundscape. Everytime I hear an album I just imagine what they could do if they had the resources of a major labor without having to sacrifice they’re music vision. Great band.  

craft
June 16, 2011 at 4:26 am

Appleseed Cast = good melodic rock band

Lastyearspromise
June 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I think they slipped out of the “emo” category about 10 years ago when they released Lowe Level Owl 1 and 2. So really, this is old news. Their music has been evolving since then and still is. 

Anonymous
June 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm

“Any listener that’s ever heard a twinkly-guitar emo/screamo band and
found its vocals a bit melodramatic and its arrangements boring should
give The Appleseed Cast an honest shot.”

That’s me… downloading now.

J K
April 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I hope you love it even half as much as I do.

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