Apse – Spirit

Apse
Spirit

When reviewing albums, the concept of “judging a book by its cover” is just as applicable as it is anywhere. The simplicity of East Coast locals Apse cover to the appropriately titled Spirit, does little to warn you of the contents inside. Removing the sleeve reveals the cover of the liner notes, which shows a dark wooded landscape. Again, the package grows more intriguing. I’m a nut for album art and the stuff inside, while simple, compliments the experience well. Which brings me to the music itself. When I say experience, I mean experience.

The album begins rather slowly, building and building in a slowly trudging tribal rhythm, perfectly punctuated by the bleak melody of the guitar and vocals. You wouldn’t know it without reading the lyrics, but the first song “Legions” is a powerful meditation on religion and politics. Such content is usually reserved for more aggressive fare, but Apse stretches the idea into a post rock, Radiohead-like epic clocking in at only 4:50. On the next track, “Shade of the Moor”, Apse beautifully announces its penchant for atmosphere. The sound of pouring rain equated with a haunting melody worthy of a horror movie soundtrack is followed by slow vocal chants, adding an unprecedented beauty. This though, is before they finally unleash the song on us as the drum and bass kick into a driving and even more haunting affair that eventually explodes into loud and boisterous cries from the vocal department. 7 minutes fly by, as it is such an engaging listen.

“The Crowned” continues the tradition established by the previous tracks, with tribal drums and bass under chant like vocals. “Blackwood Gates” starts with percussion echoing a Native American tribal rhythm. This song is just plain beautiful. By this time it’s easy to discern that, while maybe not intended, Spirit almost plays like the soundtrack to an excursion through a barren wilderness. “Earth Covers Us” is a slow, vocal driven number, continuing the lyrical theme Apse more than emulates with its music: “The meek shall inherit the earth.”

“Spirit”, the final track with discernible vocals, feels like slowly trudging through a swamp; a trip the listener will be happy to take. It’s songs like these, the untitled tracks that follow; hell the whole album, that is at times hard to listen to but it requires that we do it anyway for its important contribution to independent music.

Spirit is not the most accessible album by any means. It is not driving music. Spirit is an album that demands the attention of its audience. It requires headphones, or at least some form of solidarity, to enjoy the carefully composed post-rock that only a band like Apse can deliver. It can be a bleak listen at time but this is a beautiful album that should be experienced at least once.