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Album Review: The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha

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Sagarmatha is the Nepalese word for Everest. It’s also the name of the national park where the mountain sits surrounded by the other giants of that range. Now what this says about The Appleseed Cast’s hubris is anyone’s guess, but my mine is that it’s a prelude of sorts for what you are about to listen to, the next stage in this bands evolution if you will. With seven to eight minute tracks here, one might say the Lawrence, Kansas quartet is evolving into a more experimental act with this seventh record.

Now, seven records is a long time for any band, no matter how famous they may be, and on the lucky numbered album you can hear the age — especially, when set against their previous effort, 2006’s Peregrine. But three years provided the appropriate amount of time for the band to move forward and show us where eleven years of playing together has taken them. While it’s not Everest big, it’s still an ambitious effort that is more like climbing those giants than being them.

Sagarmatha is an instrumental post-rock meditation. The focus has moved from lyrical poetry to musical poetry-filling songs, as on the opener “As Little Things Go”, where musical moments replace the need for words. The opener is a good precursor of things to come: long open sound-scapes, like fields of dense guitars with subtler sounds blowing over the tall grasses. While still a very guitar heavy record, the focus settles on power chords, accented by echoing, sonic backing solos. By the time the words do arrive (if they do at all), they are barely audible and are a mere flicker in the song, yet, even still, they manage to add just the right amount of power to it.

The opening tracks provide early stand outs as with the more traditional “A Bright Light”, a track that directly picks up where the previous left off, only with a bigger sound, presenting a solid seven minutes that hint of arena style rock. From there the record continues down a long and dreamy interstate of ambient rock. Tracks like “The Road West” leave much to the imagination, while “South Col” and “An Army of Fireflies” are louder and more direct, full of great crescendos that lead into bass driven break downs. The latter two are what would happen if “Woodland Hunter Pt.1” were given another chance. Towards the end, the bass machine is broken out for “Like a Locust (Shake Hands With The Dead)”, providing an unexpected twist that ends up working pretty well for the band. Altogether, the songs shape up to be a cult hit with longtime fans.

The Appleseed Cast has grown up. From their humble roots as a band that was once considered a little bit emo (in the broadest of definitions) in the late ’90s, they have transformed themselves into something entirely different. The focus has successfully shifted to the layered instrumentation, making that next leap in their timeline. Sagarmatha is a record that finds the quartet in a new chapter, one that finally shows you what this band is capable of.

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