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The best kept secret in music


"s/t EP - apse"

There are times in life when an extended metaphor is the most apt form of description. With that in mind, I offer you, the reader, the following scenario.

In the not too distant future, a dense fog enshrouds a ruined city. Cued by the initial orchestral strike of 'Leer', a steel behemoth menacingly lumbers overhead, set solely to the elimination of survivors. As it passes, leaving in its wake a trail of blue-grey exhaust, the opening guitar arrangements of 'Leer' act as prelude to the stirrings underfoot. A man, a relic, a bastard of mother and machine, creeps from shelter to survey the waste; and then he runs. Towards what he doesn't know, but anywhere is better than here when your heart beats are caught somewhere between an android's mechanism and a child's terror. This is a survival he's doomed to, a hope he is bound to, and the consequence of being earth's last chance at salvation.

And that's just the first song.

What Apse has created on their latest EP is nothing short of astounding. Somewhere between a motherboard's sense of mercy and a Catholic's sense of restraint, Apse have found a balance and a cohesion that truly stands as an example of why music is art.

Musically, the orchestration, timing, restraint, arrangement, and production are what make Apse such a journey to listen to. It's almost like listening to an idealized human body wherein a myriad of components come together, playing their parts in a perfectly synchronized ballet of composure for the sake of the sound function of all as a unit.

What's even more satisfying is that the apparently high level of technical proficiency inherent in each member of the band is so finely restricted and honed for the sake of the song. It's quite clear that every member could provide a satisfying musical freak out here and there, but thankfully, none do. For if they were to do so, the artistic vision of the song and the band would be entirely lost. Apse move like a god, aware of the depth of their power yet wise enough to have a sense of what is appropriate.

Again I must commend the quality of the production on this album. Having seen Apse perform live, I can attest that it is true; Apse live are an entirely different beast compared to Apse recorded. Live, they are a veritable aural juggernaut, and perform with a command and a poise that positively demands the attention of all present. Apse recorded, however, is a far more nuanced creature. Certainly their EP retains all the throb and pulse of the live show, but where it really shines is in the fact that it has succeeded in infusing that energy with a bizarre amalgamation of paranoia and hope that is as comforting as it is disturbing.

To delve any further into a review of this EP would be the equivalent of trying to dissect the human soul, and for that reason I will conclude with the following;

Apse is legendary.
- andrew salyer/ www.upbeetmusic.com

"local motion"

I grew up going to all-ages shows at local American Legion and VFW halls. It sounds like a quirky place to get the scoop on local talent, right? But Connecticut has a storied history of do-it-yourself punk, hardcore, and metal bands that rise to national prominence after years of gigging in front of bingo boards and portraits of deceased servicemen.
But this past weekend was something different. There's a new crop of bands in these halls that artfully dodge classification. They're not indie -- not in the misunderstood, Williamsburg-hipster sense of the word. They're not jam bands, although their songs make room for improvisation, and often rage for upwards of 10 minutes. And even though they draw upon a palette of emotions much broader than most "scene" bands, there's nothing emo about them. They're instrumental rock groups, and Connecticut is churning them out in both quantity and quality.

Take, for example, Apse . They sound like a swirl of warm fuzz and feedback and indecipherable samples -- until their drummer begins to play. His spitfire drumming gives shape and form to the ambient noise, and suddenly they're cranking out chords and hooks and melodies with irresistible velocity. Then the vocals come in. There are no words -- just the sound of a voice dripping with reverb, layered upon itself until it sounds like another ethereal instrument. They made me forget I was standing in the Wallingford American Legion; frankly, I thought I was in orbit somewhere between Radiohead and my own personal orchestra. What's most impressive about Apse, though, is the way they manage to avoid sounding pretentious, cold, or eerie. The presence of vocals, however abstracted, gives the listener a reassuring point of contact. They could easily overpower with their emotional intensity and their huge sound. They choose not to, and demonstrate a sensitivity toward their listeners. - hartford advocate

"etheral meandering"

We [strive to create] a place that becomes the focal point for something beyond," explains Aaron Piccirillo. "A place where it's as if a veil is lifted and you feel what is behind things, and you feel that the person next to you is feeling something that they have known for a very long time but somehow forgotten about."
The sonic experiment known as Apse came to realization in the fall of 1999. Ryan Todd, Rob Toher and Ezer Lichtenstein had pursued musical projects together in the past, and after a short break were once again inspired to create, but this time they wanted to explore beyond the structural boundaries of a conventional band. Friends Piccirillo and Michael Gunlach were added to the lineup later on as the group's desire for lush instrumentation increased. They named the group "Apse" after the architectural term for an altar's surroundings in a church or cathedral--not the altar itself, but the empty space left for the altar to fill.

Musically, the sound is textured, atmospheric and ambient--only half of the songs have vocals, and those that do utilize the voice as a true musical instrument, not just a vehicle for lyrics.

"I hate listening to records where you've got the singer's voice stomping about on top of everything else," says Toher. "You want to pull everything that's going on in the background closer so you can hear what's really working and moving and going on."

Effects pedals, vocal processors, a digital 8-track, a 4-track and electronic drums compliment the traditional electric guitar/bass/drums/keyboard rock setup in addition to some more obscure sound-making devices they'd rather keep secret. A close ear must be kept on the dynamics of an Apse performance, as the meshing of all these instruments is led through a series of seemingly loose and improvisational yet somehow structured builds and releases that envelop the room and tingle any spines in attendance.

"Shows have been greatly rewarding because of how much people have told us our music affected them, and how...sincere and open they were with us," Piccirillo says. With instrumental music, he adds, "language has no bearing. It becomes a visceral, emotional response that isn't colored by words."

The search for a fresh sound isn't revolutionary, but Toher can't help noticing that with many current bands, the end product too closely resembles the band's influences. "Influences are important," he says, "and I love, when listening to music, when one can hear a band nodding to another band, or particular form or style of music. However, it can be really disheartening when bands embody the sound of the bands they admire and offer nothing else. There are millions of things to draw influence from, in music history, and current music, in life, and in the imagination."

Not that blazing one's own trail is easy. "We don't have any set way of writing music nor do we want to develop any kind of formulas," says Lichtenstein. "So at times it can become incredibly frustrating. Especially figuring out specific parts for songs and justifying its musical relevance. But all in all, this way of working is far more rewarding."

As for recordings, there are three options--the five-song Cloud EP (spring of 2002), the three-song Three Dialogues EP (January of 2003) and a single entitled Marrer (fall of 2003), all best aquired live as a website is still in the works. This Saturday, Apse plays the Newtown Teen Center along with Schematic of a Waking Life, Wrenchintheworks, Last Words and Dragzilla to benefit a scenester in need. "He has been treated [for cancer] and is doing quite well," says Todd, "but it took an enormous financial toll...It's funny how someone can beat cancer, but not the bill." - fairfield county weekly


APSE (s/t)- Acuarela Discos 2005
MARRER (single)- self-released 2004
DORNIER (single)- self-released 2003
THREE DIALOGUES (EP)- self-released 2003
CLOUD (EP)- self-released 2002
UNTITLED - self-released 2001

radioplay- WXCI 91.7 Danbury, CT


Feeling a bit camera shy


Under the songwriting / direction of Robert W. Toher and Ryan M. Todd, the band was founded initially as a two-piece, in the fall of 1999. Drummer Ezer Lichtenstein was quickly added, and over the last six years the band has expanded to a 6-piece, adding members Aaron Piccirillo (Guitar), Michael Gundlach (Guitar), and Matthew Wick (Auxillary percussion / drumming). influences spanning Classical compositions, Slint, Kraftwerk, and The Cure – to the first Sonic Youth noise adventures, and the early works of Brian Eno and Roxy Music. avant-garde perceptioins using post-rock and pop sensibilities.