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Circle - Tower (featuring Verde)

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Artist: Circle

Album: Tower (featuring Verde)

Label: Last Visible Dog

Review date: Apr. 2, 2007

Finland's highly prolific Circle are known by their fans for delivering the unexpected. Their beginnings were somewhat consistent, with several albums of loping, rhythmically convoluted and fascinatingly repetitive post-rock (for lack of a better term). Since then, the band have defied expectations with each release, not to mention the side projects. It's difficult to think of another band that has remained true to its core while simultaneously becoming both heavier and lighter on various albums. Recently adopting the acronym NWOFHM, a play on the old New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Circle have been, as they say, kicking out the jams.

Thus Tower comes as even more of a surprise than any Circle release thus far. Across six sprawling tracks and 44 minutes, the band and guest twiddler Verde (aka Mika Rintala) channel their inner spiritualists and let loose with a masterpiece of navel-gazing inner-space psych float. Despite the NWOFHM adorning the CD (which in fact says NWONWOFHM, perhaps meaning that this is an even newer wave), and despite the truly puzzling cover art, herein Circle draw from sounds like Alice Coltrane, electric Miles Davis, and Rovo with compelling results.

While the six songs do have their own personalities, they hang together so closely and make up such a cohesive whole that there's really no point in describing them individually. Suffice it to say that flowing synths, warm electric piano, gently propulsive drums, and tinkling percussion are here in abundance, all heavy on atmosphere but not too self-indulgent. The album generally picks up steam a bit as it progresses, with the 13-minute and faster-paced "Geppanen" at the center, but it closes in complete psychedelia, filled with synth washes, trippy cymbals and clattering percussion.

What's tricky is that this all sounds like it should be a bore, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In less capable hands, no doubt the album would be an insomnia cure. You can allow it to flow past as background sound, but if you lay back and focus, it's the details that make it work, that keep it from disappearing into its own navel. Sure, if you want to light up the incense and drift away, it'll work, no doubt about it. But ultimately, Circle have crafted a milestone in psychedelic-jazz-whatever, and it's certain to be one of the year's best albums.

By Mason Jones

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