Ad Astra Per Aspera
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Ad Astra Per Aspera


Band Alternative Punk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


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Cubic Zirconia - EP (2004)
Catapult Calypso - CD (10/03/06)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Ad Astra Per Aspera is a band of our generation, sounding out 2006 with their long-awaited full-length Catapult Calypso. After college degrees, jobs, marriage and a diaspora of their cohort, these twenty-somethings find themselves still housed in their homegrown Midwest scene, poised for an ever greater realization of their music and potential.

Formed in 2002, the Lawrence, Kansas five-piece has endured much in endeavoring to be a band—a distinct, resonant and exciting project as their two EPs (2003’s An Introduction To and 2004’s Cubic Zirconia) and hundreds of performances would argue—over the past four years. Primarily, however, Ad Astra Per Aspera has taken the care and time of experience to grow into their new record, with Calypso as inspirational evidence that their creative resources have not been sapped, nor their candid musical adventurism disenchanted in the process. Instead, AAPA asserts with Calypso that this is how it feels to be animated by noise, rhythm, melody and lyrical impressions. The evolving band stands with conviction as they present to the world of tours, contracts and "making it big". A record of the journey, Calypso is a sprawling, earnest testament to where they are actively going.

For better or for worse, Ad Astra Per Aspera is not afraid of their own sound. They are not afraid of the groove, to sound alternately mature and thoughtful, uncertain, or galvanized by angst. And Calypso reminds me of what making music should be like: engaging and intriguing from the outset, with successfully ambitious song structures that feel like new experience, yet melodic enough to linger once the amps and stereos have been turned off. The album’s epic closer, "Flannery’s Coming Home," asks, "Ok? Ok! We improvise or we replicate" and the artistic dilemma infuses the ten songs on Calypso with a palpable urgency; electric and pulsating, there is an immediate energy and necessary authenticity in each song that will seize your sympathies, positing that there is no better way to answer that question than to rock it.

The AAPA sound likewise demands respect, both for its incestuous genre hopping and assimilation of any influence that feels right for a given song. It is a sound where each song has at once an aural reckoning and its own organic feel: moody hip-hop loops end up as hooks for a spy film’s chase scene in "The Romantic One"; atonal guitar riffing crescendos in a profoundly simple piano scale by the resolution of "Scatter Baby Spiders"; and powerful nuance prevails as the undercurrent for Calypso, with claps, chants, treble-filled feedback, directing percussion, and vocal bursts or hushes stepping into the foreground as the music directs. These songs are combustible: their pleasure is in the tension of restraint and release and Calypso is a volatile offering of intensity-riddled and revelatory jams masquerading as experimental rock songs.

Catapult Calypso is the natural outgrowth of Ad Astra Per Aspera’s bountiful store of impressions from the last four years’ discoveries. Here audacity and response form the discourse for a kind of sonic storytelling, the band approximating a working understanding of just what world it is that they are inheriting through song and expression. Their ambition is not to proselytize a potential audience: just see them live to hear their faith in what 2006 sounds like to them. Any group founded out of DIY sensibilities like Ad Astra Per Aspera would be too pragmatic to expect rapture in response, but what else would realizing the sound of reaching the stars through difficulty be like? They have put the effort into taking something familiar further, and Calypso only makes me want to grow up with the band again and again.