Circle - Arkades (Fourth Dimension LP)
I'm not sure about Circle anymore. Circle used to be a sure thing for me. But now, I'm not sure. There was always a pretty stready stream of Circle releases and it was all well and good. But something happened with the release of 2005's "Tulikoira" (you may remember it as the NWOFHM album). On that particular record Circle weren't denying it any longer and completely embraced the prog rock/80's metal influences we only used to see flashes of. "Tulikoira" was a fun record, a bit over the top, but still a nice one-off. Or was it? Now every Circle joint ("General", "Earthworm", etc) seems imbued with a cheesy, hair metal take. Even the Pharaoh Overlord album this year was too much for me to handle and I hurled it aside unceremoniously (but then I was never a PO kind of guy). I understand the whole concept of bands evolving or dying, but this? And now here comes "Arkades", which does not bode well if the cover art is any indication. Is that a confederate flag? Aren't these guys from Finland? It's the kind of thing that just screams lame-o grinning-mouthed idol worship. But, as usual, I'm wrong. This is the Circle I know and love (well, know and like, at least). The LP is divvied up in classic jam band format, one 20 minute brainbomb per side. Both were recorded live on the WFMU radio station in New Jersey during Circle's 2005 North American jaunt. Side one's turf is "The Greatest Kingdom", a slow and kraut-y number featuring tribal drumming, spaced-out synth lines and frontman Jussi Lehtisalo freaked-out naked-in-the-woods hollering and raving. The track degenerates into a tripped out sonic ritual with the keyboard lines rolling mountains over and over inside your skull. Just when you think it's all about to scale itself down into nothingness, the drums pick up and a simple riff is repeated on the guitar. Some serious Trad Gras Och Stenar shit is laid down before the ethereal electronics take over and signal the side's conclusion. Hypgnotic!
Side two is "The Ghost of the Highway" and picks up where the A side left of with bubbly electronics and more mesmerizing synth lines + guitar. Everything's swirling around in the stratosphere for awhile, helped along by Jussi's gibberish/Finnish/gibberifinnish mumbling (which sounds strangely enough like Keiji Haino at his most complacent). I especially dig the weird ghostly chanting that comes filtering through at about the nine minute mark. Overall the side as a much creepier vibe than the last one which was positively jubilant, at points. The song slowly falls to pieces as the band fade out the last notes, surely to ride into the sunset on their Harley Davidsons or what have you.
This isn't Circle's best work (or nowhere near their most essential) but the band is definitely feeling it on these jams and that comes through loud and clear on both sides.