THE APPLESEED CAST – ‘Illumination Ritual’

appleseedcastTHE APPLESEED CAST – ‘Illumination Ritual’
This Kansas post-rock accumulation is one of the few surviving outfits that can actually be regarded as true originators of the ‘real emo’ movement of the late nineties.  Initially signed to the boundless Deep Elm family, they set the bar – alongside label mates Brandston, Starmarket, Planes Mistaken For Stars and other luminaries like Braid, Sunny Day Real Estate and Texas Is The Reason – in pioneering an uncommon sound that would later be bastardised by the charlatans we hear so much about today.  Their ’98 debut was emo in its purest form.  Its follow up Mare Vitalis carried a unique identity that averted conventionalism and evolved into something natural, organic and truly transforming.  The expansive Low Level Owl series showcased an innate ability to mix experimentation with exceptional structure, musicianship and accessibility; still standing as a landmark.  Yet it was on 06’s Peregrine where they rounded the edges and honed their craft.  Dark, intense songs that invited you in and spun you around with nocturnal nuances and mysterious power.  09’s Sagarmatha had moments of brilliance but teetered a little too close to rudderless instrumentation.
Illumination Ritual, in parts, has a similar feel; with mixed instrumental passages and whispered refrain.  The production plays to their strengths and feels like welcome rain on a burning brow.  Intentionally restrained but warmly effective, the opening balance of ‘Adriatic To Blck Sea’ and ‘Great Lake Derelict’ with its restless jazzy clatter point us in the right direction, before ‘Simple Forms’ calms the water for ‘Cathedral Wings’ to kick up a storm.  On first listen it can glide over the senses but on spins two and three, it unfurls to make complete sense.  And when ‘Barrier Islands (Do We Remain)’ appears on a Cure like lick, the fog begins to clear and an engaging light appears; dimming a little on ‘North Star Ordination’ but allowing ‘Clearing Life’ to lead the way through, out and upwards.  Perhaps a more consistent approach might endear and gain greater traction with the listener, but what they lack in conformity they more than make up for with sheer exuberance and unbridled invention.  (7)
STEVE FLETCHER

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