Provocative post-rock gem
A six-year wait is worth it for an album this strong. Christopher Crisci’s latest incarnation of The Appleseed Cast delivers a dense collage of sounds and songs in The Fleeting Light of Impermanence, weaving both musical and lyrical themes throughout the album’s eight sonic poems. Each song in the group can stand on its own but is lifted by its neighbors and also by its role in the greater album concept. The lush soundscapes are independently enjoyable, but on this offering, they also serve to bolster the meaningful and thoughtfully composed lyrical insights.
As the title suggests, “Chaotic Waves” wastes little time in revisiting one of Crisci’s favorite muses. Bursting open with a syncopated sequencer and drum combination and tight guitar playing, the song’s constant movement evokes the ebb and flow of the sea. The lyrics also speak of water but shift their focus to the album’s central points: time and transience.
“Petition” turns time on its head by beginning with a drum phrase and opening guitar crash that seem better suited for the track’s conclusion. The Appleseed Cast never shy away from choosing challenging musical ideas instead of traditional rock chords and structures. Their brilliance lies in the ability to transform a conspicuous finale-as-beginning intro into a jaunty synth piece. By contrast, “Time the Destroyer” immediately haunts the listener with a sense of unease with the opening percussive melody, amplified through thick, menacing layers of the synthesizer. Crisci finalizes the onslaught with a crashing guitar chorus of, “The Destroyer/ the destroyer.” “Collision” works out of the previous track’s existential mire to arrive at a mood reminiscent of “Petition.” The dynamic interplay of these three tracks, both in tone and in cadence, combined with ample sound and instrumentation are as enjoyable as any in contemporary rock.
Gentler guitar and lighter drums move the ideas of loss and hope forward in “Asking the Fire for Medicine.” Colorful layers of crescendoing synthesizer accompany Crisci’s proclamation, “You and I will save the fire,” which feels more like a question than a statement. Halfway through “Reaching the Forest,” the band digs into their pop-rock arsenal and creates an indulgent moment of chiming guitars that might not seem out of place on a Stone Roses or Police album. The interlude is short lived and the track concludes with a distinct and serious synthesizer phrase that pushes its way in front of the guitar riffs.
The guitar dominated arrangement survives into the album finale as The Appleseed Cast layers economical if echoey guitar parts against drums, that provide as much shape as rhythm to the song. For all the weighty lyrical topics and somber feeling, “Last Words and Final Celebrations” delivers on its promise with a couple of uplifting vocal verses to serve as a hopeful denouement.
Throughout the album, The Appleseed Cast enlist some of their familiar ideas and styles of previous albums. The full-bodied sounds, guitars and lyrics are unmistakably those of the same band, but they feel more focused, more determined on this effort. The greater presence of synthesizers and droning overtones accentuates the weighty subject nature of time as a powerful force in life, perhaps more powerful than Cresci’s beloved sea. The Fleeting Light of Impermanence provides an ambitious collection of new songs for returning fans, while also serving as an accessible entry point for new listeners.