Apostille is a man who’s torn through enough sound-systems to know the difference between gesture and meaning. Alongside running his own acclaimed DIY record label Night School Records, Glasgow native, Michael Kasparis has spent the last few years making forays into the realm of hardcore punk with his groups Anxiety and The Lowest Form.
Throughout all this, his solo electronic venture, Apostille has continued to evolve with each twist and turn of the world. What started off as a quest to whip up a mood and force that into a song has steadily become more of a mission in communication.
His audacious 2015 debut album ‘Powerless’ - self-released through Night School - set the template by hooking up his honest delivery to some manic expositions in electronic pop. At once minimal and courageous with intent to connect, Apostille songs race off with unchecked abandon, skittering drum machines, thick walls of sequenced synth and decidedly elastic basslines. The resultant live shows, noted for their frenzy and ragged vision, soon left Kasparis wanting to reach out in a more imaginative way than through volume and conflict.
'Choose Life' is both the album Apostille chose to make and had to make. He dialled down the clown, built up a new-found confidence in his voice and melody in general and began to feel more at home in the refuge of pop music (with a capital P). As Kasparis explains "Choose Life began as a chronicle of a bad time. Many of the songs were written as some sort of catharsis, an escape from a tumultuous couple of years.
The album title was intended as ironic at first but as the writing process went on the album began to feel more playful, I was finding revelatory threads in it I hadn't intended. Choose Life became an imperative." All the truest pop music speaks to us of escape and through this new album Apostille allows its transformative power to fully manifest. It's an album full of life and energy, as disobedient as it is heroic in its pursuit of liberation.
Recorded with Lewis Cook (of Happy Meals, The Cosmic Dead) at his home studio Full Ashram, 'Choose Life' came together in serial fashion through 2017 with Kasparis calling in when each new song was ready to commit to tape. Cook in turn engineered the recordings and in some instances helped produce the material. The subsequent final mixes were then mastered by Mikey Young in early 2018. 'Fly With The Dolphin' opens the album like a cork rocketing from a bottle, dashing to the horizon with a rampant beat, synth pop throttle and acidic edge.
Kasparis implores us to swim, walk, drive and fly away, even resorting to pressing the ejector seat on everything he wants to leave behind. Melody and purpose is pushed to the fore, backed to the hilt by some brutish rhythmic production. 'Feel Bad' is similarly equipped, with Kasparis sounding more himself than ever. Nothing is cloaked in reverb, obscured or distorted, this is Apostille in the broad daylight, ambitious, open-armed and vulnerable. "If there's something I know, it's that I'll see you again, I'm losing everything I know, I would walk into the ocean just to give you a rest" confesses Kasparis in his sleek setting of glossy drum programming and buoyant refrains in the melancholic key. This is pop music as redemption, the drawing of a line, songs that step anew unto the dawn.
In parallel to this emergent resolution there's also an acknowledgement of dissonance and 'black-sky thinking' employed in many of the tracks, including 'The Mordant', 'Without Me' and 'In Control', that turn a cracked mirror back onto Kasparis. The effect is often nightmarish and threatens to overwhelm, yet as the songs advance a certain deadpan humour leaks through the exaggeration leaving the punch cushioned. 'Thirteen Minutes' relies on a similar transgressive approach, "let the bomb drop" demands Kasparis, daring the worst whilst triggering the countdown. The electronic hand claps sting, the bassline continues mercilessly ever forward. Kasparis is using the song to make himself uncomfortable.
This is fight or flight made sound, it's forcing us all to make that jump. It dares to test extremes of emotion until they become caricatures and lose their power to constrain. Kasparis affirms this further with his realisation upon completing the record that he used the experience "to grab life by the throat", having wanted to transcribe in music that stupor that comes with feeling too much. "I wanted to write a song that sounded like you were full but hadn't had enough, so 'Choose Life' is eight of them" admits Kasparis. This act of always becoming, never arriving is at the heart of Apostille, the project only exists in a state of flux, mutable and moving in both senses of the word.
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