(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CD review - Apse, Climb Up (2009)

Apse has gone through a remarkable amount of change just to get here. Over the last 10 years, they've cycled members in and out and their sound has shifted, too. Aside from shorter songs on the new album compared to Spirit (their first album), Climb Up still mines some of that darker mood, but it also breaks things up, shifting from moodiness to anxious energy.

Musically, Apse owes a great debt to Joy Division and New Order, but they also pull in some Flaming Lips and Radiohead. Layered under all of that is a retro taste of King Crimson and Roxy Music. Sure, that's a lot of bands to compare with, but the songs really do bounce around. Robert Toher's vocals are loosely attached and evoke an edgy Marc Bolan (T. Rex).

There are some great elements here: wonderfully detailed textures, interesting syncopation, and a fair amount of psychedelia. But the overall effect is too scattershot. Climb Up is full of random shifts, like the pensive, deliberate slide of All Mine jumping into the progressive drive of Rook, Only the languid vocals maintain any cohesiveness. Later, Tropica builds a dream drenched collection of sonic layers, that build like a giant wave before drifting away and dissipating. It sets a wonderful mood, but it's torn apart by the sharp contrast of The Whip. This song takes a driving beat and a strong T. Rex feel and assembles them into a nicely packaged indie rock groove. It's not that any of these songs are bad, they just don't flow. Maybe, if they were reordered...

If the album doesn't quite satisfy, there are still bits to appreciate. The Joy Division/New Order post-punk vibe, strongest in 3.1, is a treat. The Age kicks off with a Brian Eno era Roxy Music feel and eventually slides into a trippy, Indian-tinged bit of rhythmic complexity. The affirming mood of The Return has a lot of neat little pieces that fit together in joyous tonal complexity.

So, Climb Up is a mixed bag. Sort of "rum and coke follows gin and tonic". It's worth a listen to see which parts you'll enjoy.

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