In the fall of 2007, around Apse’s 8th year as a band, Michael Gundlach and founding member Bobby relocated to the quiet shores of outer Cape Cod, Massachusetts and began living in virtual isolation. A few months into the move and for various reasons the 2 brooklyn based members of the band were no longer in the picture, leaving only Bobby, Michael and their faithful touring bass player / contributing member John Mordecai, living 4 hours away.
Together Bobby and Michael found multi-instrumentalist Jed Armour who joined the band and introduced them to drummer Brandon Collins. Both of them highly talented musicians and long time residents of the cape, the addition of these two members greatly impacted the creative capabilities of the band as well as Bobby and Michael’s understanding of – and integration into the year ’round life in the band’s new home.
After rigorous preparation with the new members rehearsing for an already-booked 6 week European tour that saw them performing at ATP Vs. Pitchfork and several other noteworthy dates across Europe the band returned to Cape Cod and began writing a new album. In August of 2008 during the early stages of the writing process, All Tomorrow’s Parties reissued the band’s 2006 Spirit to warm critical reception. Labeled as a post-rock record by some, a genre-splicing giant to others, Spin Magazine’s Kenny Herzog likely put it best: “Spirit is the deathnail for the labored beast that is “post-rock,” revealing the much more alluring potential that always lurked around its sinister corners.”
Since making Spirit – originally completed in 2006 and after releasing a number of smaller albums both before and after the ATP reissue, the band found itself ready to take on its next major endeavor. Just as a director might make respective films – changing subject matter, approach and format for each – the band was inspired to explore new means of composition, songwriting and production. Its range of members were influenced from a diverse array of art and music, life experience, fiction – and were unanimously uninfluenced by their surroundings – as there were little social distractions or creative camaraderies to be had.
The bulk of this writing process then took place between the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009. Forging the album through long days and nights in the quiet beauty of the winter months on outer Cape Cod. The record that’s come out of it, entitled Climb Up is undoubtedly a reflection of the very process that made it – tying into the creative methods as well as the story of the lives of the band’s members as they crafted the album.
Climb Up was recorded entirely by the band in their homes. The bulk of the arrangements and mixing were authored by Bobby Jed and Michael. Drawing from a mixture of existing demos that were turned into working songs as well as full-band improvised live recordings that Bobby cut up and formed into song structures, overdubbing effects and vocals on top of them – the band ultimately chose and honed in on a final cut of 12 tracks, culled from a larger body of work.
The ever-changing obtuse creative strategies of Bobby and Michael, paired with the adept musical knowledge and performance abilities of Jed and Brandon – and the diverse inspirations of all members combined to create an album that bares a fantastic dialogue between imagination and songcraft. Climb Up is wildly unique, versatile, and inarguably the bravest yet most accessible work by the band.
The record is a major departure from the band’s most notable predecessor, Spirit – which was completed 4 years prior. Where Spirit explored a dark world of reverberant guitars, ambient passages, and minimal, haunting vocals, Climb Up proves a bold step out of that darkness. The intricacies of this new world are depicted as if staggering from the world of Spirit into a very different, more illuminated place.
Not to mention its packed with more grooves, a greater use of electronics, a range of instruments both modern and classical and – notably – a much stronger emphasis on voices and melodies.
Climb Up is dense, innovative, cinematic. Apse draw from a colourful palette of different genres, techniques, instruments and approaches – and with that have made what is likely to be one of the most curious, and probably largely unexpected albums of the year. Listen, and be immersed.
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