Kansas is one of the flattest places in the world, where one can stand in a field and literally see for miles in all directions. It’s easy to see how this sense of loneliness and freedom could inspire a band like the Appleseed Cast, a duo from Lawrence, Kansas who’ve created Sagarmatha, a slice of ambient pop that will warm the coldest of Midwestern winters.
Named after the Nepali word for Mount Everest, Sagarmatha makes liberal use of synthesizers and electronic effects, notably delay and echo pedals. Predictably, this gives all the sounds a blurry, imprecise feel, but it also makes puts the album’s dreamlike, melancholy mood more in the spotlight. It feels like a marriage of the Cocteau Twins to Pink Floyd’s stadium-bound expansiveness, with distorted guitars and drums lending an edge to some of the songs’ innocent softness. The album is helped by masterful production, with a clean, slightly warm distorted sound that is simultaneously inviting and mysterious. A diverse range of instruments, with lush keyboards and heavily plodding bass riffs, pad out the sound nicely and help give this album a fullness and richness that’s satisfying.
For a dose of space-rock that’s melodic and beautiful, Sagarmatha is a worthy effort. It lacks the originality and inventiveness of artists like Sigúr Rós, and it certainly will not convert anyone uninitiated to ambient rock. But it has succeeded at accurately aiming Cupid’s arrow at that indescribable soft spot in my heart for drug-fueled sex by the fireplace with my long-lost love.