The Appleseed Cast – Low Level Owl: Volume II

The Appleseed Cast
Low Level Owl: Volume II

Starting off as the first volume finishes, Volume II of Low Level Owl is clearly meant to be listened to immediately after the first disc ends. To best experience Appleseed Cast’s latest work, you should have the two hours to spare and play both discs. Why they were sold separately confuses me, because this is clearly one work – one immense, lofty, and absolutely amazing work.

Perhaps taking progressive rock in a new direction, Appleseed Cast can go down as innovators after these releases. The songs are incredibly textured and perfectly produced, and the band experiments with a number of techniques from loops and new drumming styles to intricate instrumentals and ethereal soundscapes. If anything, I’d say Volume II is the better of the two, only because some of the individual songs here stand out more in my mind. But the individual songs are never meant to be taken individually with this band. It’s all about how they fit with the works around them.

The flow of “Strings” is probably one of my favorites on either disc. Repetition is used on this song as on much of the disc, but the flow never becomes tedious. The vocals here mix effortlessly with dreamy guitar and strong rhythm that reverses itself at one point. And it works nicely with the more up-tempo “A Place in Line,” which shows off the band’s talented guitarists. The minimalistic “Shaking Hands” has a Sigur Ros style feel, contrasted with the layers of guitars and drums that make up the spiraling “Rooms and Gardens.” The album gets more introspective with several instrumentals before “Reaction” brings up the tempo again with a more straight-forward rock track full of melodic guitars and the band’s trademark ethereal vocal approach.

As on Volume I, the band breaks off into sometimes long, sometimes short instrumental periods, and here they often try some of their more experimental approaches. Yet even these tracks are often thrilling, with tremendous beauty and passion put into their work. The chiming “Sunset Drama King” is a work of beauty, light and tremendously moving, and “The Last in a Line” gets more moody and tense. Although three fairly long instrumentals in a row might not be the best decision, they do set an interesting mood. The album’s closer, as with the first volume, is a long, almost drone-like instrumental.

There’s not much more to say about Volume II that wasn’t said about Volume I. This is one album, really, with two discs. Don’t get one or the other. If you can’t afford both, you probably shouldn’t bother. Because this is meant to be taken in one sitting, if possible, or at least as one, flowing work. Complex and often beautiful, the band shows they are on the verge of, if not already achieving, greatness.