The Appleseed Cast: Sagarmatha

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The Appleseed Cast 

Written By:

Aidan Williamson

12th February 2009
At 13:53 GMT

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Every year, approximately eight-hundred new words are added to the English language. Eight-hundred new ways in which to express ourselves. Yet despite this year-on-year explosion of potential vocabulary, we still struggle to communicate with each other, and increasingly so.

Given that 93% of communication is non-verbal and 55% is expressed solely through body language, it's not a huge stretch to say that words have a habit of getting in the way of what we actually want to say. To remedy this The Appleseed Cast have progressively diminished their vocabulary throughout their seven albums recorded together. Yet, with each release, their emotions have been more poignant, their words have become substantially weightier. To illustrate, which of the following is more profound. (1) The first time a child utters "mummy" after a lifetime of silence, or (2) The instance where a teenager yells "mum" through the door, pleading with her to curtail her time in the bathroom. Silence builds gravitas.

With album seven, Sagarrmatha (the Nepalese name for Mount Everest. Literally: 'Head of the Sky') The Appleseed Cast transpose their route through music to the pathways of post-rock. As such they achieve two feats alluded to in the previous paragraphs. Firstly they communicate effectively through the sole use of music, not letting words interfere in the meaning and secondly, when the vocals do come in, they appear markedly more substantial.

That's the theory anyway. For while the vocals on Sagarmatha do fulfill the mentioned contrast by means of their sonic-qualities, the lyrical content remains all-but lost to those without the aid of a lyrics sheet in front of them. While it doesn't approach the pretentious yammerings of 'voice as an instrument' shoegaze (there is the very real presence of substance) it would have been a further bow in their quiver to add insight into the nature of their machinations.

For all intents and purposes then, Sagarmatha is a post-rock album with indie leanings as opposed to vice-versa. When front-man Christopher Crisci makes his lingual entrance six minutes into the first track, (encrypted by a stratosphere of reverb) it comes following an majestic initiation which sees a song caked in a luminescent, magical sheen propelling itself through the oceans as it surfaces for a quick gasp of air (and cadence) before subsiding once more. In time, the aquatic ectothermic creature re-emerges a changed beast. No longer placid, it leaves collateral damage trailing in its wake.

"The Road West" is perhaps strongest of the conventional post-rock offerings, continuing the theme of twinkling, shimmering high-pitched notes set above an effects-driven undercurrent. Throughout its eight minutes, it never wanes in its ability to mesmerise, instead, it gradually elaborates on its charms, escalating to the point where the initiation of every measures feels as if it would be incomplete without the accompaniment of a violent head/table bang on the part of the listener.

Having the foresight to avoid a common mistake in post-rock, the inability to progress a song beyond its initial mood and/or style is another strength to mark against the name The Appleseed Cast. While some songs do have a narrow focus, others - such as "Raise the Sails" - feature seismic shifts in their storytelling. Moments spent encountering turbulent times which toss the song into a completely new direction. Pace, mood, time signatures: all can change at the drop of a hat.

Even as a complete body of work, the same holds true. Sagarmatha is unafraid to throw in last-minutes game-changers. "Like a Locust (Shake Hands With the Dead)" ushers forth the introduction of digitialism, throwing a synthetic beat upon an electronic melody, still retaining the same sense of epic grandour witnessed on previous outings. While not a ground-breaking venture in itself, it shows a desire on the part of the band not to become complacent, and is a brave choice to behold so late in the day. The payoff isn't monumental, but it make an elegant placeholder in the album: an audial break from the crescendo/catharsis songwriting.

"An Army of Fireflies" throws all such restraint out of the porthole. The dials are turned up to ten (you can just make ten louder as opposed to having a notch marked 'eleven' you know) and they let rip with a grandiose finale of sterling post-rock which collapses into a dissonant cascading cavalcade.

There are, of course, the obvious My Bloody Valentine allusions to be made. "South Facing Col" embodies the spirit of Kevin Shield had he spent his formulative years participating in underground fight clubs. Yet all in all, despite the veerings into shoegaze and post-rock territory, The Appleseed Cast sound pleasingly distant from their contemporaries in those fields. They have concocted a signature sound which combines influences in a distinct way: a trait which all artists strive for, but few achieve. They are adept at capturing the freedom that nature (a recurring theme throughout Sagarmatha) can provide. They offer a panoramic view of stunning vistas, mesmerising oceans brimming with life, romantic sunsets and a tangible feel to every atom which comprises them.

Rating:  8 / 10

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