Circle: Guillotine CD


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Our favorite Finns are back, again. After a dozen or so albums, this one is perhaps their tribute to entropy, wherein Circle’s characteristic clockwork mechanisms wind down into uncharacteristic disorder. Their last album on Ektro was the phenomenal headbanging hard rock production Sunrise, an album that got The Wire to somewhat misleading refer to Circle as “Finnish metal minimalists”. The metal stylings of Sunrise are not to be found on Guillotine (despite this new album’s much more metal title) but our friends Jussi & co. continue to innovate while remaining true to their trademark “circular” sound. A good portion of Guillotine finds them venturing in a hazy, oft-noisy primitive psych direction (hinted at by the few tracks on Sunrise that didn’t rock you like a hurricane). But it’s a varied album, equally likely to offer up ‘classic’ Circle repetitive-rock pulsations and noodly fusion. So, quite different in parts, yet with enough of the same Circle of yore to satisfy stogy old fans as well.
Guillotine starts off with the incredibly authentically ’70s sounding kraut/fusion of “Metsan Henget”. A very very Can-like ten minutes right there. Soon the listener’s ears are graced by Mika Ratto’s absurdly amazing, amazingly absurd vocals. Babbling goofily operatic, probably a love ’em or hate ’em component of the current Circle sound. Then, Guillotine takes a low-fi turn into what we might consider Circle’s version of Jewelled Antler’s psych-folk. Perhaps they’ve been influenced by countryfolk like Avarus, Kemialliset Ystavat, and Doktor Kettu (the latter being a likely source of cross-contamination, as their recordings appear on Jussi’s cd-r label). Circle create a mellow caveman hippy jam of sorts, followed by an example of twangy acoustic psych that leaves Circle’s classic motorik machine stylings far behind. Except that then “Teraskylpy” kicks in with a totally Circle krautrock beat, shuffling like David Shire’s Taking Of Pelham One-Two-Three noir funk soundtrack. It’s a 12-minute-plus build-up that devolves into some maniacal noise drone. Surprises continue, with “Saapuvat Ne Merelta” being waaay more spastic and chaotic than we’d ever expect from Circle. Normally they’re so mechanically precise and repetitive, but so much of this sounds improvised and unpredictable. There’s even a track that could be an ambient version of a rap record intro, complete with police siren. Weird. So Guillotine is quite possibly the most ‘organic’ and ‘free’ sounding Circle ever, clanking and primitive. And the ’70s vibe is palpable, our obscure music geek peanut butter/chocolate analogy being: like Captain Beyond meets Neu! stoner prog kraut. (Aquarius Records)