Guest Album Review: The Appleseed Cast – Peregrine

The Appleseed Cast’s latest album Peregrine may perhaps be one of the finest releases of 2006. Everything about the album is great. If you’re a fan of amazing instrumentals, then this is definetly an album you should get your hands on. I would review this album myself, but my friend and fellow Hoya, Dave Ambrose, can probably tell you about it ten times better than I ever could. After reading his review, definetly check out his site, Hate Something Beautiful, a great site that provides you with all the essential music news of the day.

Alright. Without further ado, here is Sir Ambrose’s review for Peregrine

Try to imagine the day when you were first born. I know it is difficult, but just think. Do you remember that blinding light overhead in the ER? Do you hear faint whispers as well as joyous crying from the mother that birthed you? How did the stale, hospital air taste on your lips? Or do you remember nothing? Was it all just one, big blur? Is that how life should be, a cycle of sensations that one day comes to an end?

Maybe I forgot to talk about “rebirth,” a word I was taught to view as trivial, a waste of my time and effort to ever think about. For certain, I knew of only two things: creation and destruction, one of which already occurred.

Lawrence, Kansas fostered four individual souls ten years ago to create a musical experience like no other. Their sound manifested itself upon our sensations. The members of The Appleseed Cast (TAC), quite simply, are our version of Bach, Vivaldi and Chopin. Lyrical and instrumental geniuses would be understatements when describing one of the most influential bands of the last decade. Veterans Chris Crisci (vocals/guitar), Aaron Pillar (guitar), Marc Young (bass) and recent new-comer from the defunct Casket Lottery, Nathan “Junior” Richardson (drums/percussion) released “Peregrine” on March 21, 2006 through California-based label, The Militia Group. The story that follows is a tale unlike any other, filled with instrumental crescendos, soaring guitar chords, dazzling thrums overlaid upon secrets, ghosts, spirituality, anguish and family.

Thirteen tracks is all it took to make “Peregrine” my favorite TAC album of all time, and that’s telling you something. Resting atop the evanescent giants of “Low Level Owl Versions 1 and 2” as well as “Two Conversations,” “Peregrine” paints a landscape with all colors, hues and tones, imbued with brooding emotion.

Although TAC did not intend to create a concept album with their Militia Group debut, indefinite hints of a general theme lurk throughout: a patchwork of images flood the listener’s audible space, from a once loving father racked with guilt to a son fighting against his enmity. These images are obvious, but what are possibly more interesting are those that lay between the chorus and chord. Let me explain….

TAC has always been renowned for their use of inverting tapes and experimentation of loops, but never toying with the real deal. Incorporating live electronic transmissions is a first from what I have heard of TAC, specifically in “Mountain Halo.” After thirty-five listens, one picks up a faint radio transmission of sorts at the end of an industrialized version of a modern ghost story: “Mass service units,” a man on a radio explains, interrupted with static following and then, “…[something is] flying into 2 World Trade Center.” What is Crisci telling us?

The beauty of the album is its never-ending appeal to attract another listen. When I first heard the album, the sound was something I was not expecting: cleaner and tighter, the sound was much crisper in comparison to past releases, especially with Richardson’s array of percussion arrangements. “Ceremony,” the album’s opener, showcases this altered and expounded sound. Guitar chords move into shallow lulls of fabricated loops, bursting into an explosion of deep and heavy drums. TAC matches, if not, surpasses the lone-instrumental genius of Explosions In The Sky with their “ceremonial” procession. Certainly, “Ceremony” sets the stage for the coming twelve tracks: it’s hard to describe in words, but our journey leads us to a sensational manifestation of harmony in a fifty-five minute cycle. “Woodland Hunter (Part 1)” reminds me of the “Two Conversations” glory days. With Crisci pontificating metaphors of winter and summer, I felt back home in my listening place to those times in “A Dream For Us.” What makes the track so special is the audible staggering of sound: a guitar ends, a snare-drum picks up…back and forth till merging into “Here We Are (Family In The Hallways).” Like other TAC tracks, “Here We Are (Family In The Hallways)” utilizes instrumental as well as lyrical crescendos to their full effect. Magnificent are their transitions from chaos to harmony, more specifically, from chord distortion to perfection.

“Silas’ Knife” is a cut above many of the other tracks on the album (no pun intended!). Crisci comes in and out of vocal awareness with haunting woos and pauses, followed by elongated rhythm sections by Pillar. A harmonica finds its way into the middle movement, only to be surpassed by a marvelous drum breakdown toward the latter of the song.

Without question, “Sunlit Ascending” bears a striking instrumental resemblance to “Losing Touching Searching” on TAC’s famed “Two Conversations.” With some high-ended guitar notes and wonderful percussional execution, “Sunlit Acsending” crescendos to something we have and always will love about TAC: a tsunami of sound finds a way to form into one, unified harmony of vocals and instruments. It truly is a thing of beauty.

Behind “Ceremony” lies “Peregrine’s” most underrated and gem of a track, titled “An Orange And A Blue.” The name sounds simple enough, right? Right, but the sound is so far from it. The musical landscape of “An Orange And A Blue” is so complex, with over four different movements under a span of four minutes and eleven seconds that the listener, like most TAC pieces, finds himself/herself laden with magnificent colors of euphony. Wow.

Toward the end of the album, TAC really picks up their musical prowess with stunners such as “Woodland Hunter (Part 2),” the title track and of course, “The Clock And The Storm.” Seven songs before, Crisci laid down a story of allegorical brilliance: laden with nature’s best analogies, “(Part 1)” elaborates on a tale of blossoming love. Fast-forward some years, where “(Part 2)” develops. “A heart filled with long and despair,” mellows Crisci along the simplified tune, with keyboard and snare-taps adding to the somber atmosphere. The feel of the ballad smoothly transitions into “Peregrine,” the title track of the album. To be honest, when I hear title tracks of albums, I usually find something is missing, some sort of punch to it. Sunny Day Real Estate’s “How It Feels To Be Something On” and Jimmy Eat World’s “Clarity.” However, TAC was able to deliver a worthy example of how to formulate a beautiful title track. Besides the sheer awesomeness of instrumentals on the four minute and thirty second eye-opener, Crisci’s voice and words take the stage in ways I never heard imaginable: “When you crawl back to me, you will be on your knees,” he belts out. The imagery of the lyric is awe-inspiring.

With the exceptions of “Mare Vitalis” and “Two Conversations,” TAC ended on the typical note of an instrumental closer…and what a note to end on, if I might add. From slow, subtle movements to fast, intricate interludes and rhythm sections, “The Clock And The Storm” truly represents my love for this band.

After all my listens of the album, through and through, I could only find one flaw, rather one realization: Hardly anyone, even those die hard fans in the “scene,” those tracing back to 1984 with Rites of Spring and Jawbreaker, will appreciate the genius this album exudes. Why, you might ask? Simple. The members of The Appleseed Cast are amongst a small group of musicians who still do what Rites of Spring and Jawbreaker did twenty-two years ago: craft art that hits home at the heart of listener, an art of precision and passion.

Rating: 9.5/10

Here are Dave’s favorite tracks from Peregrine:

The Appleseed Cast – Woodland Hunter (Part 1)

The Appleseed Cast – Here We Are (Family in the Hallways)

The Appleseed Cast – Mountain Halo

Thanks Dave! And don’t forget to check out Hate Something Beautiful everybody.

-Adrian

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