When experimental sounds become a sort of norm for music, it becomes hard to differentiate what really qualifies as an "experiment" and what we would call flat out "weird." But words like weird and experimental are tributaries of more basic, but far more important terminologies: effective, and ineffective. The Appleseed Cast has fit into a mold that might be called experimental for ten years. This continues to be the case in in their EP Middle States
since they don't seem to have an agenda etched in marble. But even with good flow, and a strong second half, this one warrants some room for growth.
While the quartet from Kansas has some interesting, creative, and sometimes unexpected content, their sound can feel somewhat pasted together at times. For example, the first half of the opening track on Middle States
sounds like the band ripped a page out of Explosions in the Sky's book (also from the middle states), and another page out of Death Cab for Cutie's book, through them in a spread, and called it a song. The emo and post-rock ingredients don't seem to be jiving as well they have in the past for them. Even more jarring it the fact that the vocals are difficult to hear over the cacophony of the full post-rock instrumentals in that open the track. If they were intended to be placeholder sounds, then they didn't serve their purpose. The track does gain some momentum in the second half that weaves seamlessly into the interlude, but that means nothing if you can't make it through the first few minutes.
The third track on the EP "Middle States", has a smooth flowing opening that lures you in. Explosions/Death cab thing kind of comes back, but in a much more homogeneous way. The track is engaging from the get-go, and it stays that way, picking up with enough finesse to keep the song feeling like a constant buildup to something better, right up until the moment it ends.
The final track is all about the mood. It's good listening music without a doubt, and it establishes an airy lounge vibe that the band may or may not want to try to steer towards. It illuminates the fact that The Appleseed Cast still hasn' t made a firm decision between the post-rock world and alternative rock. As long as they can marry the two well, they should never have to.
What follows Middle States
has the potential to be great if The Appleseed Cast continue parenting their sound, perhaps locating a more cohesive middle ground. The appropriately named "Middle States" does this better than any of the other tracks on the EP. If they stick to these middle states, it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.
For some of their older work, check out our full length concert.