An acquaintance of mine who is a touring comic loves Lawrence, Kansas. In a state of widely diverse political and social values, the city of Lawrence remains a liberal bastion. It sports a diverse music scene from venues that pays tribute to the smoky jazz and blues that made Kansas City famous, to experimentally tinged alternative rock which constantly challenges the current sound and taking it to a whole other level.
The Appleseed Cast is one such Lawrence band that has surpassed the finest alternative music that city has ever offered before. It is a stew of ‘90s Industrial music, a la PGR, Nurse With Wound, and The Swans, and at times a clove of Joy Division. It is then heavily spiced with a hard rock tip of the hat to Queens of the Stone Age, and stirred gently by some swirling, jangle pop guitars which brings to mind latter day Cocteau Twins. At first, this concoction seems difficult to swallow, but the elegantly mixed styles create an edgy, beautifully aural experience that captivates with each listen.
The Appleseed Cast is comprised of: Chris Crisci on vocals and guitar, Aaron Pillar, guitar, Mark Young, bass and Nathan “Junior” Richardson on drums and percussion. According to their press bio, The Appleseed Cast started their musical experiments in the second half of the ‘90s, toured the world and put out four full-length albums. The group delicately balances the genres they work in, being careful to keep self-indulgence from setting in. Many of the songs give one the illusion of swimming within the musicians’ veins, getting deeper into their darker selves. There is an overwhelming sense of despair, isolation, and abandonment here, a nihilistic sense about the emerging desolation of the human spirit. But oddly, just when things threaten to become too dark, Crisci’s and Pillar’s acoustic guitar licks signify an inkling of a dim yet ultimately attainable dawn that gives rise to hope.
Were this album more acid/punk oriented, it could be easily compared with some of Husker Du’s earlier efforts. But the music on Peregrine does not become immersed in any genre long enough to be pigeon-holed. The compositions are crafted to extract the essence of each song, leaving behind pretension and preachiness in favor of exalting the individual listener’s interpretations.
My acquaintance, the touring comic, says the most compelling quality of any art is its timelessness; the ability to listen, read, or look at a work from any period and feel a personal connection to the music, characters, or images. Peregrine fulfills this quality throughout its thirteen songs while it moves the various genres that appear on the album to the pinnacle of potential — and sometimes beyond. In this sense, The Appleseed Cast is almost a metaphor for Lawrence itself — feisty, independent and unwilling to fit neatly within the stereotyped perceptions of Kansas and Kansans.