Published Mar 10, 2010If the Appleseed Cast are remembered for anything, it will be Low Level Owl. Playing out like one long, sprawling track, the 2001 two-volume album found the Lawrence, KS outfit ditching their '90s emo roots and embracing a sound of a more complex and sophisticated nature. Studio experimentation, found sound and tapes effects flowed into anthemic guitar epics, blending everything from post-rock to indie to ambient psychedelia, prog and a lot in between.
The records earned the group mounds of critical praise at the time, with some reviewers going as far as calling the Appleseed Cast America's closest answer to Radiohead. It's little surprise then that nearly a decade later, the band have set out to recreate Low Level Owl in its entirety for the concert-going public.
Made up of five on-stage members — most of which never actually played on Low Level Owl —the band proceeded to work their way from front to back on the nearly two-hour double album. However, it quickly became clear that the records' "studio as an instrument" approach wasn't exactly going to work live, leading the band to highlight the more structured songs while straying away from the experiments and heavy atmospherics.
It was a smart move, considering Low Level Owl is best consumed between a pair of headphones, but still, the often slow-moving live renditions were tough to connect to. Presenting zero in-between song banter and less than enthusiastic stage demeanour, the group looked very much like one going through the motions, and made zero effort to connect with the audience. After the intermission that followed Vol. 1, the second instalment picked things up a bit, but what was once hypnotic and mesmerizing on record ultimately came off flat live.
Yet if you were simply out for that quick nostalgia fix, which is all this night really was, the Appleseed Cast did manage to take you back to a bygone era, even if the band themselves didn't seem to enthused to be back there. But America's answer to Radiohead? Well, we all know that claim never really held the test of time.