Perhaps it’s impossible to count the number of times the Appleseed Cast almost called it quits over the last few years: between indefinite hiatus, side projects, and the lethargy associated with seemingly impending demise, the band has at best been on the rocks. Until last year, that is. The Appleseed Cast came out of hiding in 2005, touring with new drummer Nathan “Junior” Richardson—a mammoth addition, no less—and talking new album from the get-go.
Peregrine is the result: the Appleseed Cast’s phoenix album, rising above the years of chaos and uncertainty to strange and beautiful heights. The band has never sounded so strong, so together. In the past, there has been a divisive line between atmospheric haze and emotive, energetic structure. On Peregrine these facets cease their tug-of-war in lieu of bonding. For the Appleseed Cast, this album represents a new genetic chain, aptly capturing these tumultuous years and the identity of a band having gotten through it all, remnants of personality leftover from past accomplishments welded to the strongbody of explosive, experimental rock music.
Peregrine finds the Appleseed Cast building a new version of itself through an expansion of poles. For example, the band incorporates more acoustic elements into its structure than ever, a strange but admirable move (it works, after all) for one so set on rich layers, one whose atmospherics have come to define them. These acoustic elements, mostly guitars, create conflict with the Appleseed Cast’s core, but not as we might expect: the quietude of incorporating acoustic guitars into such an enormous sound works doubly hard to enhance. Effectively, the Appleseed Cast stretches its spectrum, and for all its lucid, dreamworld atmospherics Peregrine has moments of tragedy and desperation that keep it from being the great carefree summer album of 2006. That’s not to say, when all’s said and done, that it won’t be widely acknowledged as one of the best albums of the summer, or of the entire year, for that matter.
If it didn’t completely simplify the album, it would be easy to say the opening track, “Ceremony”, is representative of the Appleseed Cast’s growth. The song is one of the most brilliantly crafted songs of the Appleseed Cast’s 10-year career, haunting as the strongest moments of the Low Level Owl albums but with a ferocious catharsis the band has never successfully exuded.
Instead, and perhaps most notable, is the band’s overall forte: it’s not just genre-bending, it’s a bending or distortion, one might even say a perfection, of the band’s persona. With Peregrine, the Appleseed Cast takes the promises of its past and spreads them across a musical canvas that is rich and huge and complicated, yet still mobile and able to push ahead, far and beyond what we’ve come to expect of them. The emo, the math rock, the absurd moniker “post-rock”, the drum ‘n’ bass and glitch are all apparent but none of these hollow brand names alone are true: with Peregrine, the Appleseed Cast transcends all of these labels, achieving a remarkable synthesis of the things that build to define genre in the first place. It thus becomes all the more appropriate that the album title be this word—Peregrine—meaning migratory, or alternatively foreign or alien, both representative of the Appleseed Cast’s place in the musical world.