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.