Circle - Tyrant
(Southern-Latitudes Series) Keith Boyd 02.23.07
I've got to admit that new releases from Circle are always a mixed-bag for me. While I can really appreciate the Spinal Tap humor implicit in their whole NWOFHM (New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal) shtick, actually listening to some of these extended jokes can wear a bit thin. I know that this isn't very "cool" of me and there are probably more than a few hipster-metal folk out there who will turn their noses up at my uncouth proclivities. So be it, but as a card carrying member of the music buying nation I just got a bit tired of tuning in the latest (and supposedly greatest) new Circle release simply to end up feeling duped. Let me state for the record that this isn't always the case. In amongst their 20 million discs are a few outright classics. I also love some of the offshoot bands the Circle guys participate in, especially Pharaoh Overlord. What I love in a new Circle release is when they stick to what they do best. Their forte is in taking a loop of sound and riding it into the stratosphere and beyond. They start with some dense figures of riffs and various warblings and then let them circle (no pun intended) around and slowly add to them creating a hypnotic wash of dense and rocking sound. That's the key I suppose. When Circle is on it doesn't matter just how avant garde the various sound elements are, they still make you want to bang your head.
Thankfully Circle has accomplished this (and so much more) on their new release, "Tyrant". This CD is put out by the mighty Latitudes imprint from Southern Records. In this series they've brought out amazing music from such widely flung sources as Sir Richard Bishop and Shit and Shine. Every release has the same origami style heavy cardboard sleeve with wild Tibetan iconography swirling around a central image which the band or musicians design. The artists record an exclusive session for the release and are given total freedom in terms of content. Given the caliber of people they choose it's no wonder that they limited releases are so highly coveted and of such amazing quality. On "Tyrant" Circle rises to the occasion with three gloriously long and sonically dense offerings. The shortest track clocks in at 14:22 and the length of each track highlights the above mentioned hypnotic build Circle excel at. Each track differs slightly in tone and tempo but manages to remain of one piece. This music has a mystic depth to it that defies genre or classification. There are of course some elements of Kraut-Rock classics like Can and Neu! present. One also hears a touch of Hawkwind at times in the soaring riffs but Circle transcends their influences to make something really original here. The 45 minutes or so you spend listening to this CD will enrich your time on Earth. The music is dense, challenging, complex and somehow comforting. Drones are always comforting. Drones done with this much care and elaborate interplay are nothing short of amazing.