Shall Noise Upon
Shall Noise Upon is the third full-length album from Cambridge/New York/
L.A.-based Apollo Sunshine, the follow-up to their 2005 self-titled record.
Written and recorded on the spot during a particularly transformative summer
of 2007 up in the Catskill Mountains in a house inhabited by spirits, right next
door to the original Uncle Sam by multi-instrumentalists Jesse Gallagher, Sam
Cohen, and Jeremy Black. Surrendering themselves to divine will, universal
harmony and the fierce belief in the collective head-space and transformative
musical alchemy of Apollo Sunshine, this is a celebration of darkness and
light, love and death, friends and lovers, ghosts, magic in numbers, searching,
finding, losing, destroying and creating anew. This collective harmonic spirit was also realized by recruiting a
cavalcade of exceptionally-gifted musical pals (from Boston s Drug Rug, Tulsa, Viva Viva).
Bouncy 60 s-style melodies crack wide open, breaking into outbursts of
pummeling and feedback before jumping back into the tune. It s all neatly
and cleverly plotted, but with a looming chaos that s anything but nostalgic. --New York Times
Apollo Sunshine s latest takes the wild, psychedelic instrumentation of the
Elephant Six Collective, reigns it in, adds a hint of roots-rock accessibility to
the Brit-pop bliss and cranks the amps to eleven for a complex record that s
still 100-percent rock n roll. --Paste
This new band has no real genre outside of made-up, adjective-loaded
hybrids like manic, free-associative pop or something like that. --Pitchfork
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This is creative achievement that readily attains greatness. So bottomless in nuance, it will both delight and challenge your being for years. Failure to purchase it will be your own great loss.
In particular, their third full-length album is a concept album about spirituality's effect, so they have plenty of material to build on. But they wrap it in a canvas of outrageously loopy sound -- we've got a mishmash of jazz, soul, psychedelic pop and pastoral folk, and it's all splattered with an experimental edge that practically tears off the ear.
"The surface of streams/the fingers of trees/the sweet harmonies/in the breeze...." Sam Cohen sings over a pendulous melody of guitar, rippling harp and trickling piano. As a warmup, he continues singing the praises of nature, and describing it as being "the way I long to touch you."
It's followed by the bouncy acoustic folk of "Singing To The Earth (To Thank Her For You)," the blistering psychedelica of "666: The Coming Of The New World Government," and an all-too brief titular interlude which is basically blips, creaks, and eruptions of electric guitar that sounds like it's trying to possess you. Think a hard-rock reincarnation of the Olivia Tremor Control.
From there they drift through songs in that vein -- delicate folk-pop melodies, countryish ballads, bouncy psychpop, quirky acid-jazzy songs, and a Mexican flavoured pop tune. But there are also songs that go way, way over to the weird side -- warbling strings filled with hymnlike vocals, spacey psychedelic Hawaiian folk.
And there's the eerie "Light Of The World" finale. It's all thunder, strings and dawnlike buildup... followed by silence... and finally finishing with a weird lo-fi brainwashing message. Don't know what that's all about.
"Shall Noise Upon" was apparently recorded in a "house inhabited by spirits" in the Catskills mountains, and there are moments where you can believe that a few of those spirits wangled into a microphone. Then again, there are moments that suggest it was recorded in a beach-house after a sunset party, where somebody was impaled in an electric guitar. Who knows?
Either way, the Apollo Sunshine manages to have it both ways in this album -- they continue to deliver ripe psychedelic pop, but also polish their wild weird experimental eruptions. Lots of acoustic and electric guitars, violin, banjo, brassy trumpets, piano and harp, but also trickling keyboard, explosions of steel guitar, bells and a delicate flute. And they're able to twist normal instrumentation into strange unpredictable shapes, be it an exquisite swell of strings or a hallucinatory burping eruption of screeching guitar.
Sam Cohen rides these songs out to the end, usually sounding like a long-lost Beatle, but channelling Lou Reed occasionally. And he's all too happy to wallow in the lyrics of pastoral love odes and daydreams of a money-free world ("I know I would lose my job/and I would find the time/to do all those things/I've always wanted to do but never had the money..."). At best it's thought-provoking, at worst vaguely incomprehensible and a bit cliched.
"Shall Noise Upon" polishes everything about the Apollo Sunshine, and takes their wild experimental psychedelica and endearing folkpop further into the stratosphere. Change is coming!
A year after the fact, I am finally warming up to it, finally starting to feel the magic that I felt listening to Katonah and their self-titled over the years--somewhat obsessively at times. Shall Noise Upon is a very challenging album. It's almost as if they set out to intentionally distract and turn away anyone without an absurd level of dedication. It's not enough to call it "schizophrenic"... it's more like it suffers from a whole host of "mental disorders" and thus has taken a whole lot of effort to see the unadulterated beauty underneath all the strange and distracting layers. It is bi-polar, schizophrenic, prone to ADHD, with a little multiple personality disorder to boot. What really makes it complicated is that most individual songs are this way, as well as the album as a whole. Although a shock to the system at first, multiple listens (and multiple might just mean 10 or 15, for starters) are necessary. Or maybe all it takes is the right place and the right time. Either way, underneath all the arguable hubris, this is starting to finally strike me as a thing of beauty... dare I say almost a cohesive album. Almost...
I almost wrote it off for good, and I'm glad I didn't. As if Sam, Jesse, and Jeremy could ever let me down! Aww shucks. If nothing else, a whoooole lot of work obviously went into this. A true labor of love, like their overall existence as a band. A little patience and dedication goes a long way. In another few months, it just might climb its way up to five star status.
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I would recommend that everyone listen to this album at least once, especially if...Read more