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Circle - Sunrise

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Artist: Circle

Album: Sunrise

Label: Ektro

Review date: Feb. 10, 2003

The Finnish collective Circle have never found much value in homogeny, which is somewhat ironic considering the repetitive nature of their music. The Kraut/space/stoner/metal hybrid headed by Jussi Lehtisalo, who also runs Ektro Records, has released 11 full-length albums since 1991, all revolving around a hypnotical, psychedelic groove, and yet none sounding remotely the same. Diasporic drums, flutes and synth washes are just some of the modules employed by Circle over the years, each complementing the constant dose of guitars and relentless percussion.

Sunrise continues Circle’s evolution with an assortment of deadly riffs repeated ad nauseam and startling vocals from the recently recruited Mika Rättö. The keyboardist/vocalist is by far the most glaring stylistic change on Sunrise, his freakish shrieks resembling an elf-powered Rob Halford. On the opening “Nopeuskuningas”, the group immediately launches into a power-metal hook, reminiscent of the meatier parts of Andexelt and not totally unexpected. However, when Halford starts belting out falsetto howls in an indistinguishable tongue, it’s clear that Circle’s creative spirits remain unbroken. The track disintegrates into bedlam over its eight minutes, with Rättö drowning in a sonic mess of distortion. Yet, all the while, the opening riff churns away in the background.

”Satulinnut” is even stranger, a hippie psych-folk trip with acoustic guitars and Rättö’s vocal channeling the ancient Druids. The abrupt shift reeks of posturing, but Circle’s psych mastery circumvents pretense and the track’s pastoral charm comes off with out a hitch.

Rättö continues the Stonehenge revival on “Vaanen valtiatar,” an acoustic number motored by Tomi Leppänen’s flawless work on the kit. A rising guitar riff, eventually layered with mesmerizing keyboards, cycles without respite for almost eight minutes, the tension building as woodwinds and drones are added to the mix.

While the superfluities always seem to change, Circle’s mesmeric guitars, manned on Sunrise by Jyrki Laiho and Janne Westerlund, remain squarely at the center of their mystique. Lehtisalo takes the immediacy of electric guitar and incorporates drone’s sense of the eternal to create a static sound that defies dystrophy. Leppänen’s indefagitable drumming, which propels the album’s closer “Lokki” to heights that would procure Sun Ra’s respect, adds an important pulse and direction to the immortal vibe. In glowing disrepute of their moniker, Circle continues to evade the inevitable and find new ways to push things forward.

By Otis Hart

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