Wednesday 23 Jul

Manmade Objects - Monuments

No one wants to be forgotten; everyone wants some sort of legacy, a mark they leave behind as they exit this life for whatever lies beyond.

And for as long as there has been death, there have been monuments — whether austere or understated, abstract or concrete, prominent or tucked away in private — erected by the ones they loved to assure that remembrance, at least for a time.
07/15/2014 | Comments 0

Admirals - Amidst the Blue

Sometimes it helps to not be very good.

Some of the best albums and artists were born out of happy accidents owed to varying degrees of early suckage — the perfect note or chord for a song found by missing the one you are aiming for, failed mimicry of an idol bearing something entirely new and great instead.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0

Kierston White - Don't Write Love Songs

The Tequila Songbirds have become just as beloved as about any group around these parts. And how could they not?

Featuring a revolving cast of the Sooner State’s most badass female performers, it’s a power hour of some of the best songwriting coming out of central Oklahoma. Sure, they might not technically be family, but they are clearly a band of sisters all the same, bonded by the same brand of whiskey running through their veins.

07/01/2014 | Comments 0

Depth & Current - Dysrhythmia

"Overproduced" is a term thrown around all too indiscreetly nowadays, usually applied when the thing that sticks out about a song or album is how it sounds rather than how it is constructed. Yet some of the most compelling albums ever crafted embodied a certain aesthetic that was just as skillfully and meticulously put together as any Bob Dylan or Miles Davis record — which is to say production is as crucial to our enjoyment of music as much as anything else; it's also the most overlooked.
06/24/2014 | Comments 0

Weak Knees - “IceBevo”

Indie rock has been in a good place as of late. Not caring about being cool is the new cool, and a couple of dudes on guitar, bass and drums can make catchy, earworm songs without being armed to the gills with computer software and vintage synthesizers.
06/17/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Instrumental Chicago trio Russian...

Instrumental Chicago trio Russian Circles shelves metal, digs darker with 'Geneva'

Chris Parker November 5th, 2009

Cinematic instrumentalists Russian Circles are at it again. In late October, the musicians released "Geneva," their third album of muscular, undulating rock that slithers and swells with palpabl...


Cinematic instrumentalists Russian Circles are at it again. In late October, the musicians released "Geneva," their third album of muscular, undulating rock that slithers and swells with palpable menace.


While the Circles' compositions follow a dramatic arc, the trio isn't as predictable as many of its instrumental peers. Some songs, such as the disc's title track, warm up quickly and then slowly unwind, like a car circling down from the top of a parking garage. Others, like the eight-minute "When the Mountain Comes to Muhammad," crash like waves before bursting with a droning wail and receding into the horizon.

Circles' latest continues to widen the Chicago trio's sound. String arrangements on songs like "Melee" further explore the musicians' moody landscapes with a suppler, more refined sensibility that puts even more distance between them and post-metal acts like Pelican and Isis, to which the band is often compared.

"Some of the songs are just as heavy or even heavier, but I think they don't manifest themselves in conventional metal riffs," guitarist Mike Sullivan said. "We don't really consider ourselves a metal band and never really have. We're fans of a lot of metal "¦ but we never set out to write a metal part, just heavy or soft. It's not so much by genre as what's the feeling. Is it a loud part? What's happening here? Is it creating tension or is transitioning into another part, or is it climax or is it just a dark, brooding part that's setting up for something else more depressing?"

Sullivan said the spirit of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who directed the Manhattan Project, hung over "Geneva"'s proceedings. The members were fascinated with the scientist's life and troubles before and after the atomic bomb " an obsession that inspired the vocal samples percolating in the back of "Muhammad."

"We were always open-minded about other elements, and other instruments being thrown in the mix and different ideas that we've never really pursued before," Sullivan said. "We had more time to sit back and think, 'What else could a song use?' And not worry about reproducing everything live necessarily to see what the songs wanted, fill in the gaps we were hearing in our minds, and see how it sounded."

Besides having more time to write and record, the Circles benefited from having bassist Brian Cook on hand. Cook, who also plays with Seattle post-hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes, replaced original bassist Colin DeKuiper, after his departure in late 2007, but most of 2008's "Station" was already written when Cook came on board. This time, Circles flew Cook in from Seattle for a few weeks several times last year to hone the compositions for "Geneva."

His addition made a significant sonic difference, Sullivan said.

"It's a little more commanding, a little more authoritative and less forgiving," he said. "The record has a rigid kind of feeling to it that's not overly structured but is really dense, and not mechanical. It sounds a little more powerful and it's allowed me to explore different things on guitar while he's holding the bass line. It really gives Dave (Turncrantz, drummer) and I more freedom to work within the songs."

The overall effect is of more space. Like a wide-angle shot of a mountain range from across the plains, there's an openness and broadened scope to the "Geneva" arrangements that diminishes the reliance on a crush of sound, instead leaning on more subtle sonic effects. The dynamics are greater and the loud parts more isolated, seemingly increasing their stature and impact.

"As we get older, it seems more natural to us " more pleasing to leave more room and let the songs breathe," Sullivan said. "You can often say a whole lot without getting too technical."

But that's really Russian Circles' modus operandi: saying a whole lot without uttering a word.

Russian Circles with Red Sparowes and Young Widows perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at Tthe Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. "Chris Parker

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