Apollo Up, Light the End and Burn It Through (Theory 8 Records)

East Nashville’s Apollo Up are the Toto of the local indie scene – a supergroup that succeeds beyond the members’ previous bands. In their taut songs, you can hear the fruition of guitarist Jay Phillips’s designs for Lotushalo and the anchored rhythm section that bassist Mike Sheppard’s Ohio Casualty Group and Shibboleth always wanted for. Their new release for local label Theory 8 Records, Light the End and Burn It Through, is rare for an indie – a full-length that takes full advantage of modern recording technology yet retains their unique sound. The result is an album whose musical style may not appeal to all listeners, but whose recording won’t alienate anyone.

At heart, Apollo Up is a simple band – bass, drums, guitar, voice. The three members explore limited textures of their instruments. Phillips’s guitar is the exception. He plays with tone more than timbre – from brittle, squeaky clean runs to chunky chords, Phillips alters his sound most with his tone knob and pickup selector.

Though their songs often feature memorable vocal melodies, Apollo Up do not construct their songs with a simple melody over chords. They all play rhythm. Each instrument plays lines of music but without a concern for harmony. It is in this way that they resemble “math-rock” bands of the recent past – bands who emphasized precise playing of complex riffs. But their pleasing vocal melodies and economical arrangements evidence an affinity (if subconscious) for good pop.

Some Kind of Washington’s vocal almost swoons over its mid-tempo arpeggios. I Saw Her Standing There makes clever use of a old synth sound to fill its throbbing beat while Phillips sings an impassioned but hooky melody. Each song (and indeed all the others) follows a linear construction, developing one new part after another and rarely repeating, which defies pop sensibility but at the same time holds the listener rapt to the changes.

The album’s balance between the familiar and futuristic should mark another success for Theory 8 (who released Forget Cassettes’s debut earlier this year). It’s certainly a success for Apollo Up whose music crosses over to listeners of hardcore, indie pop, and obscure noise.

[This piece originally appeared in the Rage.]