Apse | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, November 26th, 2020  


Spirited Away

Oct 01, 2008 Fall 2008 - Jenny Lewis
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"We understand why we get the post-rock thing, but we hate it,” says Robert Toher, guitarist/vocalist of Apse, speaking from his home on Cape Cod. Apse can’t seem to avoid the comparisons to Sigur Rós, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and their ilk. Putting 8-minute crescendos to tape may have something to do with it. Nevermind that the band’s cold, tribal mechanics owe more to post-punk and early industrial music than to the soaring introspection one now associates with the loose post-rock designator. One prefix-zealous reviewer went so far as to label them “post-post-rock.”

“We always just say it’s rock music. It’s atmospheric rock music with an emphasis on drumming,” says Toher. Apse has been performing its ghostly, critic-confounding dance since forming in 1999 in Newton, Connecticut. The revolving lineup currently features Toher, Michael Gundlach (guitar), John Mordecai (bass), Jed Armour (guitar), Brandon Collins (drums), and Aaron Piccirillo (keyboard/guitar/bass). After a series of early EPs—Untitled (2001), Cloud (2002), Three Dialogues (2003)—the band found a home on Spanish label Acuarela Discos. After one more (eponymous) EP in 2005 they released their debut full-length Spirit in 2006, which was re-released to wider distribution by ATP this August.

Spirit brings a tribal pulse and Toher’s creepy vocal meanderings to the forefront. It’s like a child’s nightmare, all dark hallways and all-enveloping, fantastic ambience. On “Legions,” a ghostly piano is accompanied by Toher’s heavily effected wail, climaxing in the couplet “chased by an evil down through the gates/captured and bound by the shade of the moor.” “Blackwood Gates” is a down-tempo dirge, on which Toher explores humanity’s inability to shake off evil. “It was scary at times writing it, because there’s a lot of religious and strange phenomena it addresses,” says Toher. “It almost felt like there was kind of a weird dialogue going on between us and the things we were talking about.”

The environment helped. “Some of the tracks on there—especially ‘Blackwood Gates’—kind of fucked with us a bit,” continues Toher. “We were writing in this big empty house in Connecticut, a lot of times well into the night, and it was weird, man. It was a weird time.”

Toher, Gundlach, and Piccirillo now live in another big house in Eastham, Massachusetts, where the band records and practices. It’s far enough out on the cape to foster more weird times without too many distractions, something the band finds helpful. “For the new record, we have over thirty tracks that are being developed, which we’ll probably cut down to ten or eleven,” says Toher. “I can’t imagine that we’d be that far into it if we lived in the city, with all these options.”

Toher expects that new album to see release early next year. In the meantime, check out the Eras EP, due from boutique vinyl label Equation Records (or in CD form from Acuarela Discos). A segue between Spirit and the material they’re working on now, it’s “less of a haunting, tribal, séance kind of affair,” as Toher puts it. But it’s hardly pop. “The next record’s not going to be an Of Montreal record or anything, but there’s a little bit more well-roundedness to it.”



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