Change, as they say, is a good thing. And a lot has changed for Lawrence, Kansas, post-rock outfit The Appleseed Cast over the 14 years since their founding. With Illumination Ritual (out April 23rd), their first full-length since 2009’s Sagamartha & first output since 2011’s Middle States EP, they’ve embraced not only a new line-up, but also hopscotching time signatures and a tumultuous anthemic energy that rivals anything else in their consistently impressive catalog.
With lyrics written over the course of three nights, between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m., & music written over a 3 month period of time, Illumination Ritual reflects both a sense of urgency and unbridled creative energy. Many bands fizzle out after a few records but on this, their 8th full length, they’ve hit a high mark that many will undoubtedly compare to their 2001 masterpiece, Low Level Owl. We here at Graveface feel this is easily their best record to date though.
Every album has come with line up changes for The Appleseed Cast. This one introduces Taylor Holenbeck on guitar and Nathan Wilder on drums. Both additions are outstanding on this record. Musical interplay between band members is something Appleseed Cast is known for, but the level of counterpoint and intricate yet chaotic energy is unmatched to anything they’ve done to date. The songs are energetic, sweeping, full of atmosphere, melancholy yet hopeful, driving, determined, and unabashed. Lyrically, Chris Crisci (founding member) is creating images to be pieced together. Much like Appleseed Cast’s seminal work, every song has a feeling and theme, but nothing is forced or in your face. The lyrics frame perfectly the vision of the music. In songs like “Great Lake Derelict” and “Cathedral Rings” you can hear nods to some of their most recognizable work, but there’s something new and fresh that’s all encompassing.
With such a natural chemistry within the new line up, it makes sense that the songs themselves, while embracing chaos and a tuneful math-rock sensibility, eschew earlier recordings’ slick production for a more organic sound. The songwriting itself grew from collaborative explorations in the studio, with each player given time to riff on the parts that had been laid down before, their spontaneous contributions captured and cut together. Newly invigorated by their shared enthusiasm and the interplay of their individual talents, The Appleseed Cast enters their fourteenth year as a new band in the best sense, full of fresh ideas and the energy to bring them to both longtime fans and new converts alike.
Illumination Ritual will be available on vinyl, compact disc, cassette & digital on April 23rd via the Graveface Records & Curiosities imprint.