The Appleseed Cast
he Appleseed Cast has consistently created the most fascinating textures of any band associated with a genre ending in –mo (Dave Fridmann Presents A City by the Light Divided excepted). Even at the group’s outset, when they resembled Mineral a tad too closely, they brought the saxophone to the studio to make sure that listeners had a hook. The group’s apex came with the Low Level Owl two-disc set—a sort of low-rent Loveless as sung by Jeremy Enigk. But the follow-up, 2003’s Two Conversations, tread water. The textures and production were there in flashes, but the songs were the sound of a band taking stock and wondering where to go next, relying on old tricks to get them through the forty-one minute slog.
Peregrine doesn’t find them hearkening back song-writing wise to their past much, although the distinctively hollow production remains. Sure, there is the odd instrumental (the e-bow tribute “An Orange and a Blue,” the limp cyclical opener “Ceremony,” and the closing watery prog opus “The Clock and the Storm”) and, yes, there is the Low Level moment (“Song 3” is a second-cousin to “Steps and Numbers”), but there is straight-ahead cathredral-lit punk rock (“A Fate Delivered”) and honest-to-god electronic touches (“Sunlit Ascending”’s drums are enormously distracting, as are “Woodland Hunter (Part 2)’s for that matter) as well.
Lyrics have never been the group’s strong point—they’ve always utilized a few instrumentals on each LP (until Two Conversations)—and Peregrine is no exception to the rule: the album is a concept record about a daughter (Peregrine) who is murdered by her father (“Silas’ Knife”), only to come back and haunt him as a ghost. Placing lyrics out of context are unfair, and rarely useful, but let’s just say it goes from “We are standing on a road / On a road to nowhere” and eventually gets to “You cannot hide yourself / I’m everywhere.” Per usual, they’re often sung in a manner that makes you want to send royalty checks to Sunny Day Real Estate, but every so often they’re helpfully aided (by choirs) or masked (by the trusty old-time radio filter).
At this point in the Appleseed Cast’s career, it’s hard to imagine them topping Low Level for ambition or Two Conversations for concision. And, now, three years on from the latter record’s recidivism, it’s nice to see Peregrine be as wide-ranging and searching as it is. Hardly anyone expected the group to mix near drum ‘n’ bass workouts with oceanic Yes rips. But it’s this sort of all-encompassing attitude that gets them into trouble. Where Low Level embraced a new sound and pushed it to its limit, Peregrine takes from everywhere and tries to fit it into what the group should sound like. Peregrine makes you realize again that The Appleseed Cast is full of guys that you’d love to hang out with and listen to records. Just remember to nod and tell them that you get it when they put on their new record.