If you don’t know the name Tony Appleseed, let me bring you up to speed. Tony Appleseed may seem to be a strange relative of the 1700s American pioneer, but the truth be told, he has more cognitive powers in the way of distributional seed. Anthony DeFabritus III is the actual man behind the branch-filled curtain of the spheroid, and he has many ripened and intricate movements of fruition when it comes to dropping rooted new ideas throughout the land. DeFabritus is the proverbial nurseryman and four-string ploughman behind bands such as Accidental Seabirds, Little Big Toe and part-time resident of Jason Sales’ dark and glittering Moon Motel.
Those loam rich bands have all been covered here thoroughly and have been some of the premier conversational pieces of my journeyed career at the Aquarian. But the one trait they all have in common is like that of the original planter. The qualities of anonymity and wallflower modesty walk hand in hand as they sift their artistic ideals of brilliance throughout their plot of original scene turf, and that’s where the sun comes up and into our viewfinder.
When I first got the cryptic email from “Tony Appleseed” about a show he was playing, and he had missed the deadline for a release, I didn’t give it much thought. Seriously, I get 35 people each week that have vital and life-changing information to impart to me, and sometimes it just seems too overwhelming to take it all in and fit into a timeline. That was true until I happened (per chance) to get this extraordinary email that led me to listen to Tony Appleseed’s humbly gifted tracks. What I heard hit my urgency button. It hit me to the point of putting down my third Maker’s Mark to pick up my grimy, secret-laden phone and fire off an email telling this Appleseed character to get on deck because I was floored.
Sometimes you find a songwriter/performer that seems to have everything sealed up tight. It’s like a marvelous secret that’s just been discovered by science. Like catching the secret, intimate courting of peacocks or the next-door neighbor having sex with that girl from 7-Eleven and that’s what this Shoreworld artist has. My measurement stick of talent is measured in emotional gut reaction. In a world of corrosive chameleons, that’s all I have left. But that’s why the beauty and truth stand out from all the hype. Much like the title of this group’s new record, the colors I see flashing throughout my communicative mind and the change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion is the way I view Metanoia. It’s like a thousand billy clubs are coming down onto my sensibilities on all levels.
Lined with sweat, tears, sleepless nights, and accumulated years of life lessons, Metanoia is a documentation of experiences. Myriads of tracks packed with “heart and soul, quiet sonnets that burst into explosive emotions, connected by exploratory instrumentals.”
Like so many favorites of mine, this is music that merges beautiful tapestries of adventure into mysterious avenues of personal imagination.
Metanoia is not a disc for the musically trendy. If you’re looking for danceable pop ditties or sullen and forlorn hipster vibrations, you probably want to go elsewhere. What this CD gives you is a rare and deep track look into the talented brain of an otherworldly composer and musical team of visionaries. The disc features a monstrous 15 songs, and there isn’t one that sounds like it could have been left off this disc.
First up to bat is “Samsara.” Orchestrated synthesizers rumble and boil with dissonant delight under the monotone ministrations of Appleseed’s introduction. “Being fully in the present moment is the greatest gift you can give to each situation.” As the synths, pianos, bass and drums roll and roil into their perspective setup, “Appleseed” (who plays many of the instruments himself) inserts his dynamic and pristine vocal into the mix. If Iron & Wine, Pinback, The Decemberists and Chicago got together, this would be close to the result of those arabesque influential ghosts. Tony is an orchestrating madman, and his talent and timbre is massive. Song construction is Frank Lloyd Wright in feel as the band chunks and flies firefly free into their logical anti-battle with the human race and all we’ve attempted to shape.
“Sophrosyne” blasts into the next ring, touting bold, harmony-laden keys in the vein of Steely Dan and Coldplay. The drum work of Jerry Gambino is frenetic and stormy, moving from a cacophony of double-bass thunder to a laidback pocket of country folk Charlie Rich gold. The middle-eight is pure progressive 1970s jazz that swirls down into the pocketed, dreamy verse work of Appleseed.
The most regrettable part of my job with a selection of songs this large is space. Unless my column was two pages (don’t even think about it) long, I sometimes have to scoot and shoot. So with that in mind, I click the random play button to see what might blow into my viewfinder next. And that next song happened to be the luxuriously textured “Cross Hatch.”
Blending what sounds like doorbell-tinged mellotron with the glimmering warble of smoky, electric pianos, TA slips into the mix, running side-by-side with instrumentation before the band punches the peddle to the metal. His Beatle-esque melancholy verse of ominous passion dissipates into 3/4 progressive plateaus of presentation. The band is genius when it comes to focusing the vocal, and there’s never a time when I’m bored with “Cross Hatch.” Ivory trills spill over the end like “Riders On The Storm” before the song disappears in sonic layers of analog twisted delay.
Another high point on this top-shelf disc is “Hair.” Flashing codes of minor-laden voicing, Appleseed leaves the listener in dream state before instrumentation steps down and into the rabbit hole. Stormy and dark musical excursions calm and roll into clean and clear waves of verse, welcoming back the theme in seamless harmony. Piano work hails synthesized lead work as bass and drums cut and rumble down the spinal chord of this complex work of art.
Tony Appleseed is an extremely intelligent composer, and the Henry Mancini meets Radiohead work on “Zeta Reticuli” is another poignant example of that descriptive. Guitars pluck and pick LSD-tinged lines straight out of the Blake Edwards movie A Shot In The Dark as drums and bass stretch into avant garde territory. Synths dial in on the outer limits as guitars (compliments of Justin Iannarone) vamp scary, giant monster Tony Iommi action under more vocalized scientific monologue. If you’re a fan of not knowing what might come next in your music and relishing the elation of discovery, then “Zeta Reticuli” is indeed the dark side of the moon.
I have to admit, the name puzzled me at first. I would even go so far as to say it threw me off and had me thinking it was some dunderhead cover band yahoo looking to cash in on Bar A’s “Fruit of the Year” contest. But whatever the method of madness might be, this is one compositional team that I’m glad I found.
Kudos goes out to all of the following that brought this project to life: Tony Appleseed – vocals, piano, Rhodes, guitar, bass, synthesizers, programming, sequencing, ukulele, banjo, drums/percussion, sitar and vibraphone; Jerry Gambino – drums; Candace Schur – vocals (“Characters Drawn,” “Land Mines,” “Zeta Reticuli”); Justin Iannarone – guitar. (“Hair,” “Land Mines”).
Tony Appleseed will be around for a long time to come, and I’ll be sure to see this group live the very next chance I get. In the meantime, I would suggest checking them out and buying your cherished copy of Metanoia over at tonyappleseed.bandcamp.com.
As always, I encourage musical suggestions over at firstname.lastname@example.org