Words by: Cal Roach
The Appleseed Cast :: 01.24.07 :: Mad Planet :: Milwaukee, WI
The Appleseed Cast is a group dodging labels. The omnipresent emo tag has hung on the band for years, and ever since the droning experimentation of 2001's Low Level Owl album they've been lumped in with the post-rock pack. Both of these designations fall under the big indie umbrella - which covers the Cast's musical whims as well as its label affiliation - but these days the mainstream is littered with indie-sounding acts wearing arena-rock life jackets. How can one avoid being typecast? In the dingy confines of Milwaukee's Mad Planet, The Appleseed Cast attempted to stand outside its pigeonholes and just be a great live band.
The Appleseed Cast
The Cast stormed out of the gates with "The Clock and the Storm" from last year's Peregrine, which came off as a muscular Mogwai paired with the poppier side of Sunny Day Real Estate. It set the tone for a show permeated with guitar-driven instrumental exploration, varying in energy and focus but ignited by the precision and passion that sets this group above most of its peers.
The audience was treated to a preview of their forthcoming EP early on, which gave further proof the band might be scampering out from under the shadow of emo and intensifying the atmospheric layering it began in the early part of the decade. They relied heavily on newer material (over a backdrop of Edward R. Murrow sound bites, among others), amping up the energy on "Song Three" and "Here We Are," where guitarist Andy Pillar carved wave after wave of intricate melody and sonic wash, giving the album versions an adrenalized rush. Some of the rhythmic changes proved a bit awkward but the payoffs were richly rewarding.
Andy Pillar - The Appleseed Cast
By Julien Mudry
About halfway through the set, the Cast delved into its back catalog, pulling out "Innocent Vigilant Ordinary," a slab of moody punk reminiscent of late-90's Samiam, that sounded much more fierce in the live setting. It got the pure heart-wrench treatment from singer Christopher Crisci, who sounded freshly wounded all night. The crowd went nuts for "Secret," a gem from Mare Vitalis and one of the earliest indications that the band was capable of creating music that was different from that of its weepy emo contemporaries. Then came Peregrine's "February," transformed into an eerie dance punk dirge with clanging guitars and a throbbing beat. New drummer Aaron Coker had big shoes to fill. While his style is more pulsing and less intricate than what fans are used to, he brings more power to the dynamic builds that the band is perfecting while still maintaining a level of technical proficiency that's essential.
The set closed with some truly Kevin Shields inspired instrumental intensity. The Cast bathed in its mastery of post-rock momentum, slowly increase the throttle, put on the brakes, and coasting through stop signs. The encore was Low Level Owl, Vol. 1's centerpiece, "Steps And Numbers," the perfect embodiment of the two dominant forces in The Appleseed Cast's music. It begins as a classic indie pop song - morose yet still somehow hopeful - which is broken by a jarring minor chord that tolls like a dark church bell in the middle of the song, heralding a cyclic, slow-burning jam that built into a deafening crescendo. It seemed very self-aware, as if the stylistic shift made by the band at the turn of the century was still playing out.
The Appleseed Cast
The forthcoming EP may shed all vestiges of emo and send The Appleseed Cast head-on into the post-rock cauldron. If the Cast was ever truly emo it was the kind of emo that gutter punks in the late 90's were scoffing at because they were afraid it would ruin the scene, never dreaming it could be co-opted by the mainstream.
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