Album Review: The Appleseed Cast – “The Fleeting Light of Impermanence”

Posted: by The Editor

The Fleeting Light of Impermanence, The Appleseed Cast’s first record since Illumination Ritual, finds the band digging deeper into the sound that defined that defined their last outing but searching for different feelings to evoke. The eight songs on this record lay out an arc of wonder, chaos, and resolution in gorgeous and sometimes difficult to define post-rock. But the humanity in these songs is buried a few layers deeper. Literally, Chris Crisci’s vocals are folded deeper in the mix, never rising above the other sounds unless they’re silenced completely. 

But that humanity is there, even if it takes some time to uncover. The opener, “Chaotic Waves,” is a nauseous song that bobs along in an almost taunting fashion. The lyrics help the song to defy a simple emotional response, at times reflecting a wrestling for control (“Take back your names/Break the spell of dreaming/And put your feet to the path”) and at other times surrendering to the powers that be (“In time, wind conquers down to us”). 

The following track, “Petition,” is the closest thing to a pop song on the record, in part due to its consistent refrain (”Ice the fire of your brethren/you’re all I see”). The inscrutable nature of these repeated lines is countered by the sense of wonder in the music—the sunrise of an organ in the bridge or the playful, ambling drums that bring the track to life. 

Later, the waterfalls of synthesizers and purposeful guitars that give “Collision” its peaks communicate a nonverbal kind of hope, pushing against the talk of “no redemption” that lines the steadier valleys. “Time, the Destroyer” takes its time to set up a punishing, pummeling core that genuinely feels situated at the end of the world. “Reaching the Forest” merges a peaceful, calm-before-the-storm type intro with an urgent, but affirming ending—”you’ve gotta let your heart move on.” 

At the heart of Fleeting Light of Impermanence is “The Journey,” which separates out the most indirect, nonverbal aspects of the Appleseed Cast’s sound from the most straightforward segment of the record. A rising wall of sound builds and builds until it all falls away, and Crisci’s vocals are finally heard clearly. “Life ain’t easy/but if you do it right, it’s worth it…Never lose the fire/you’re gonna need it on this journey.” Here, the lyrics provide direct advice, arming us to return to the ocean of purposeful sound that leads the song out. It’s a rare moment of clarity that becomes all the more powerful in the context of a record that aims to dig complex emotions out of dizzying, sometimes chaotic landscapes of sound.

In the video for “Great Lake Derelict,” which comes from The Appleseed Cast’s 2013 record Illumination Ritual, the magnificent, interstellar-sounding track follows a down-on-her-luck young woman who dreams of leaving behind her failing newspaper delivery job to become a video game designer. At that point, the band had accumulated a dense and eclectic body of work that travelled from the realm of classic ‘90s emo rock (1998’s The End of the Ring Wars) all the way to experimental post-rock epics (2001’s Low Level Owl Vols. 1 and 2). “Great Lake Derelict” is the nexus of all of the band’s various sounds, a song that reaches for the heavens while also getting straight to the heart of the matter—”And I’m shooting for gold/I will leave this life, and you will see me off.” The video is significant in that it brings this to light, telling a small story about shooting for the stars against a track that sounds like it’s already seen a few stars itself.

But the human stories from Fleeting, like the one from the “Great Lake Derelict” video, still feel like they’d be at home alongside these songs. That’s what makes them worth listening to over and over again—trying to get to the heart of the matter. 


Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh

The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.