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Circle - Rautatie

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Artist: Circle

Album: Rautatie

Label: Ektro

Review date: Feb. 10, 2011

Some bands just aren’t suited to the casual fan. The Fall, Ween … Insane Clown Posse; with the occasional exception (that ICP video), you’re either in or you’re out. But the people that are in are all the way in. Circle has always inspired that level of fanatical dedication. Just by virtue of the group’s prolific output, and hence, voluminous discography (as I write this, I notice that a new album is coming out in April), the band has basically filtered out the potential for all but the most diehard of fans. Sure, The Fall’s catalog may be imposing to behold, but at least you can dive right in with almost any album and get a good idea of what the other 30 might be like.

Circle allows no such luxury. That the new one will most assuredly be different from the last one is the only thing that’s predictable. True, Jussi Lehtisalo’s band has whittled the general scope of its interests down to a scant six or seven sub-genres (krautrock, metal, prog, avant-minimalism, etc.), but which one (or ones) they are going to embrace at any given time is anyone’s guess. Of course, this is part of the appeal, and what keeps us coming back. One begins to get the impression that like The Residents, Circle is more of an idea than a band. It could go on forever, shifting members — perhaps until none of the original ones remain — but the vision would remain essentially the same. According to the band’s website, Rautatie sees the introduction of two new guitarists to the fold, but that hardly matters in the greater scheme of things; they are assimilated in the same way you might add a pinch of salt to a pot of chili. It’s a barely perceptible accent to an already dense mix of slow-cooked and well-asserted spices and flavors.

The eternally rotating membership, and its breakneck productivity would be causes for concern with most bands. Somehow, this has never seemed to affect the bottom line with Circle. There may be albums that are harder to grasp than others, but there are really no bad Circle albums. Whatever tangent it may spin off on, Circle will inevitably tackle it with the confidence of a true renaissance band. Things may occasionally veer off to the Turbonegro side of overdramatic genre-busting, but the band never comes across as dilettantes.

One of the most impressive feats of the Circle machine is how it manages to seamlessly interweave disparate ideas and genres not only in the confines of an album, but within the songs themselves. "Pelkka Meno" begins as a hard-riffing proto-metal biker-rock anthem, a la Budgie, then gradually drops a Satie-esque tinkling piano into the mix until the two are co-existing in ways that seem totally harmonious and natural. In lesser hands, a move like this would basically equal Mr. Bungle. Such is the peculiar gift that is Circle — stirring a century’s worth of "serious" music and party music together and making it sound like it was always meant to be that way. And, of course, it was.

By Jon Treneff

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