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Circusfolk - Making Faces CD (album) cover



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4 stars After three years together with two ep releases and a lot of gigging mainly around the Helsinki area under their collective belt, the pop fusion orchestra Circusfolk hooked up with their frequent gigging partner Overhead's keysmaster Tarmo Simonen and entered the studio under his guidance to record their first full length album.

The album opens with Submarina, a longish underwater atmosphere intro made entirely on treated guitars. They come from the deep depths of the sea to lighter waters and introduce the finger picked rhythmic riff to If, a long time concert staple inspired by the science center Heureka's planetarium in their native town of Vantaa. Ari Honkanen sings in a more assured voice than before and the band rocks tighter than ever. Producer Simonen adds his synth flavors as he does throughout the album. Step Away is the name of the next song and it's probably the best crystallization of their versatile style: tight quirky rhythms, pop melodies, freak out instrumental section (with some melodica adding a nice touch) and heavy riffing morphing into a very bright and optimistic sounding section. On this album the band remakes two tracks from their previous releases, the first being the first track they ever wrote. They give The Fool much more character by slowing it down, adding some guitar synth, a brilliant guitar solo by Honkanen and a completely updated masterfully intense instrumental section with strong viola precence. Kudos for Charlotta Falenius, fantastic work. Where In The Outside In is I believe the newest track of the album and despite its neat vocal harmonies, guitar patterns and heavy bass riffing it's slightly the weakest track here in its tad directionless feel. A good song anyway, but there's better things still coming. Haven was the minor ballad hit of their second ep and it's presented here with more prominent viola, a soft march rhythm on the snare drum and even some mellotron spices for grandiosity. A great pop song incorporating some funky rhythms when approaching the chorus. The last two tracks are mainly penned by lead guitarist Aatu Kettunen and he also handles the lead vocals on these tracks. And shockingly well he does considering that this is the first time we hear him on the mic. Rhubarbed Wire is my personal favourite with its stop-start verses, odd rhythms, haunting mid-section and a magnificent finale where Kettunen shows off his voice. The man can really sing. Ending the album is their most straightforward piece of music yet, the sweet little ballad called Strangers. Sweet until you concentrate on the lyrics and hear a story of a daddy warning his little ones to steer clear of suspicious strangers and then it turns out that maybe they're not the only thing to beware. Great contrast between the exterior and the content.

Lasting less than 38 minutes Making Faces is an album you want to put on again straight away. It leaves you hungry for more. Producer Simonen has made a great job putting some much needed kick to the band's sound lacking on the ep releases. For a debut album this is a brilliant offering but not quite the mindblower that The Progression Bell ep was a year before despite its thin sound. The songwriting is still there big time, now also the sound is there, where will they take us next?

Report this review (#204300)
Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This Finnish band was active also as a live act in 2004-2008 but sadly folded after releasing only one full album. It would have been interesting to see where they would have gone with more time. Making Faces is not only very promising debut, it's finely produced, exciting, original and mature prog rock album. Unfairly short one, but full of intelligence and emotion. Their prog aspect is more Eclectic than Symphonic, rather guitar oriented, and blessed with a suitable amount of pop catchiness - without having much of repetitive chorus-refrain-chorus structures! They don't have any distinctive Finnish sound, instead one could guess they're from England, USA or Sweden.

The opener 'Submarina' is a dark ambient instrumental painting an underwater atmosphere. An echoed guitar and machine-like screeches make brief appearances amidst fascinating serenity somewhere between Brian Eno and New Age. However this is quite dissimilar from the rest of the album; I would have liked to hear more such spaceyness. 'If' features Gentle Giant reminding rhythmic angularity especially in the vocals. 'Step Away' feels like edgy indie rock and is my least fave track.

'The Fool' (6:22, the longest track actually) is a wonderful prog number, mostly in a spacey atmosphere but with plenty of variety in tempo and soundscapes, and yet remaining totally coherent. Mellotron sound is present too, though it may not be a real mellotron. Charlotta Falenius's viola is as its most effective on this one. The next song resembles slightly 80's King Crimson with its angry bass / guitar parts.

The vocals are also very good; I'm thinking of them as a cross between Elvis Costello and... Adrian Belew, perhaps. 'Haven' has excellent vocal delivery and sonic freshness similar to Daniel Lanois / U2. Then comes an eclectic mixture of rock energy and ambient-flavoured sound tapestry. This music is indeed highly intelligent without being dry at all. The closing song 'Strangers' partly returns to the submarinal soundscapes of the opener. Recommended for Crossover Prog listeners, easily worth four stars.

Report this review (#1198517)
Posted Thursday, June 26, 2014 | Review Permalink

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