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Low Level Owl: Volume 2
Artist: The Appleseed Cast
Label: Deep Elm Records
Length: 12 tracks, 55:13
Low Level Owl: Volume 2 picks up where Volume 1 left off. In fact, the two albums of atmospheric post-emo music were recorded at the same time, and this disc begins with a reprise of the last song on Volume 1. While the sound is similar to the first disc, it begs the question, "Why?" Is there really a need for two albums that sound virtually the same?
One solution might have been to split the discs up differently. Both offer a mix of instrumental tunes as well as songs with introspective lyrics. While the instrumental songs are pleasant listening, they often break up the power of the other songs. It might have been better for the band to release one album of songs with lyrics, and another disc of all instrumental work.
Lyrically, the band stands out on songs like "Strings" and "A Place in Line," where they appear to address the emptiness of our consumerist society, and, in particular, the ills of the record industry.
On its own, Volume two is a good disc, but together with Volume One, it's a bit too much of the same thing.
Ken Mueller 11/6/2001
As one might glean from the title, Low Level Owl: Volume II is the second of two separately-released installments in a 26-song set from Kansas' Appleseed Cast. As with Low Level Owl: Volume I, which was released in August of this year, Volume II continues the quartet's fondness for lush, atmospheric emo rock compositions. "Strings" ties an engaging guitar line to the group's infectiously oblique lyrical inclination (Stepping down the maze/ A broken life will bind a broken man/ A second hand can sell/ To a fading sense of self) and ambient, echo-soaked musical section. And "A Place in Line" (Crushing leaves to find the spot on earth/ Bring me down/ The silence grows and leaves a chance to breathe) is an equally impressive combination of the group's delicate harmony work and intrinsically melancholy mindset.
Like its predecessor, Volume II devotes roughly half of its running time to instrumental tracks. But, where the lion's share of the instrumentals on the first album were mostly meandering and undistinguished, numbers such as "Ring out the Warning Bell," "Sunset Drama King" and a number of others from LLO II sport an elevated pop sensibility that makes the instrumental side of LLO II far more accessible than its earlier counterpart. Even so, the band does falter occasionally on entries like "The Last in Line" and "The Argument," which oscillates for nearly six minutes between two single-note measures of eight bars each. The nine-plus minute, album-closing "Confession," recycles the droning wall of industrial noise that closed out Volume I, exemplifying the Cast's fondness for overly elongated arrangements. If LLO II's instrumental side, on average, gets a slight nod over that of Volume I, the remainder of the release fares slightly less favorably, lacking both the urgency and the instantly memorable quality that made the first album's imposing non-instrumental tracks among the finest of the genre.
Devoted fans of the group will do well to pick up both Low Level Owl releases, given that both contain a sizable number of worthy entries, and program the two albums down to a single disc's worth of truly first-rate material. First time listeners of the Appleseed Cast are likely to be best served by picking up Volume I, given its much stronger set of songs. All said, the argument for having reduced the Low Level Owl project to a single album certainly holds some merit. But, even in spite of that, the Low Level Owl: Volume II release still works fairly well as a stand-alone project and, taken together with Low Level Owl: Volume I, forms one half of a relatively impressive two-disc work.
Bert Gangl 11/19/2001