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CIRCULUS

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Circulus picture
Circulus biography
Formed in London, UK in 1997 - Hiatus between 2009-2018

London-based CIRCULUS was formed in 1997 by Michael Tyack and Emma Steele. Michael had been in several groups before, namely the Mad Hatters and the Jackals. He continues to front the group as they offer a mixed-up avant garde psychedelic folk-rock style of music that is rather unique and compelling to the listener. All of the band members dress up, in a cross between 1970s and mediaeval clothing, as can be seen within their album booklets. The music itself has many progressive moments, particularly on the instrumental tracks, which contain a lot of Moog synthesizer, mixed with mediaeval and baroque instrumentation. They have a unique sound, but they are best matched to such bands as COMUS, JADE, FAIRPORT CONVENTION, STEELEYE SPAN and PENTANGLE (broadly speaking), with nods to DECAMERON and STRAWBS during their less overtly Celtic moments. Contemporaries like GALLEY BEGGAR stake out similar territory, both having been signed to the metal oriented Rise Above records at some point.
They will likely appeal to those who like progressive folk and avant garde music, but also to those with generally open mind, musically speaking.

Current members of the band include: Michael Tyack (vocals, guitar, saz and cittern); Lo Polidoro (vocals and harmonium); Sam Kelly (drums and vocals); Ollie Parfitt (Moog and keyboards); George Parfitt (bass guitar); Will Summers (flutes, recorders, crumhorns and rausch pfiffer) and Victor Hugo Llamas (bongos and percussion). Former members include Emma Steele herself (songwriter) and Robin Cieslak (multi-instrumentalist). Marian Segal (formerly of JADE), wrote and performed one track (along with the band) on their debut album "The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope, Yet To Be Sent".

Though on lengthy recording hiatus after their 2009 album "Thought Becomes Reality", a new album entitled "Birth" is due out in September 2018.

Recommended to those who enjoy overtly Celtic rock with a modern twist and a bit of an edge.

: : : James R. Yeowell : : :
Revised and Updated by: Ken Levine (kenethlevine) August 2018

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CIRCULUS discography


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CIRCULUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.37 | 20 ratings
The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent
2005
3.80 | 22 ratings
Clocks Are Like People
2006
3.13 | 11 ratings
Thought Becomes Reality
2009
3.00 | 2 ratings
Birth
2018

CIRCULUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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CIRCULUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Birth by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.00 | 2 ratings

BUY
Birth
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars Given the 9 years recording hiatus, it's perhaps not surprising that this English outfit has moved in a new direction. The CIRCULUS sound remains folk based for the most part, with plenty of synthesized accompaniment as before, but the influence of neo folk and ambient styles are evident for the first time.

The opening number 'The Ecstasy of Digging in Graveyards' signals the shift immediately, with vocalist Michael Tyack's new narrative style and a minimalist approach musically. While it works well here and on the mystical 'Seeking out the Sacred Sites' and 'Stories from my Book of Dreams', what should be the prog centerpiece, 'Creation Wears a Golden Coat', at 10+ minutes, is at least 3 or 4 minutes too long, and I'm being generous. While the running time is higher than past efforts, the repetitiveness and the higher ratio of instrumentals do pad the output. Luckily, both the medieval 'Scarlatti', with its harpsichord-ish leads, and the space age 'Earth Disco' triumphantly confirm the band's continued prowess. In the meantime, the single, 'Tintagic', is nigh as delightful as anything we've heard from them, whimsical and addictive in both lyric and melody.

One aspect of Circulus remains intact, their ability to distinguish themselves in a crowded field while never quite threatening to capture the flag. On most days, that's good enough for me, and reason enough for them to be born again in whatever form.

 Thought Becomes Reality by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.13 | 11 ratings

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Thought Becomes Reality
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars On their third release, this retro-modern UK prog folk outfit takes a step back in musical adventurousness but lurches forward in lyrical coherence. On the one hand, "Thought Becomes Reality" offers several largely instrumental numbers and even a song that are traditionally based. While perfectly well played and enjoyable enough in their way, they appear to fall within a comfort zone that might have previously caused these renegades a degree of discomfiture. On the other hand, at least the first three tracks are somewhat adherent to a theme of interstellar travel. They successfully juxtapose the excitement of such an endeavor with the unsavory aspects of colonization and being one of the chosen few to leave a burning wasteland of a planet while being entrusted to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Not surprisingly, and consistent with the previous offerings by CIRCULUS, the album kicks off strongly, with the inspiring "Transmuting Power" both setting the stage for the arduous voyage to come as well as the successful arrival. Tyack's earnest vocals act as both play by play person and color commentator, while the shimmering keyboards complement the acoustic guitar backing. The voices of either the ship's computers or the all too wiling natives of the new world are swollen with helium, which initially detracted for me but subsequently won me over. "Guide our Way" is more reflective but nearly as rewarding, with flute playing its usual pivotal role and Holly- Jane Shears supporting on vocal harmonies. Lofty statements are made but they neither detract nor enhance.

For the rest, the light hearted "Michael's Garden" and the hippy anthem "Within you is the Sun" that cedes the lead reins to Holly-Jane are the most engaging. As I write this, a new album "Birth", their first in 9 long years, is newly available. Perhaps they needed that long to regroup and return with a fresh insight, or they were just struggling to implement the message behind this album's title. Not quite as engaging as their first 2 projects.

 Clocks Are Like People by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.80 | 22 ratings

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Clocks Are Like People
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Superficially structured like the CIRCULUS debut, "Clocks are Like People" is a collection of 9 very English folk rock tracks of which the first three are all superb, and the last is admirably ambitious if not entirely successful. Again, it's the in-between parts where the band tends to slip in nondescript or seemingly incomplete ideas, choruses repeating song titles like mantras assigned to nobody, almost as if they hope that inspiration will be imparted magically down the line. By a pixie or a dragon perhaps?

Well, back to the start then. "Dragon's Dance" kicks off with brooding a cappella before more spirited flutes, vocals, and bass accompany this short but accomplished number, that even includes a sweet crumhorn solo. In general, the bass, flutes and synths dominate this album musically, juxtaposing ancient stateliness and the gurgling of industry with surprising success. "Song of Our Despair" is even better, with gentle electric guitar then flute and voice. A few organ washes color the powerful bluesy introduction to the rather disappointing chorus, which is a bit of a recurring theme, as is my complaint about it. Still, some of the synth work here is so imaginative and unnerving that it succeeds in spite of itself. The sheer verve of the electronics overload in such foreign settings is admirable, like a child who flouts authority so creatively one is loathe to criticize. Yes they are often over the top but never irritating. The peak is next, the mystical "Willow Tree", with its brooding verses and emotional vocal performance by Michael Tyack, fat bass lines from George Parfitt, and a swirling keyboard oriented climax. It transcends the subgenres to which it purportedly belongs, like a rock band that discovered Wicca and cast this piece as its first spell.

Unfortunately, "Wherever She Goes" sounds like that rarest of songs, a weak mid period CLANNAD number, right down to Lo Polidoro's vocals, and "Velocity Races" is utterly lacking in spirit. "To the Fields" is also low on energy but is far more wistful and succinct, with Hackett-like acoustic guitar and flute, combined male and female vocals that are almost whispered, and an unhurried melody.

The album closer is the most psychedelic, and atypical for the group, dominated by an addictive rhythm and vocals that sound as though piped through an old CB radio. Through fits and starts the band conveys the dubious nature of reality, rendered more tenuous by whatever they are smoking or otherwise consuming. I've bought in just a little more this time around, and, while this isn't materially better than "The Lick on the Tip", I'm going to round up this time because I'm probably only right twice a day, and that moment is now.

 The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.37 | 20 ratings

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The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars While it can be assumed that many a psych cum prog folk band from the late 1960s and early 1970s thought they could gain an edge in a crowded field by consuming illicit substances, less is known of the non pharmaceutical habits of current bands of this ilk, other than their numbers have drawn down over 5 decades of corporate pop. But in the case of CIRCULUS, a medieval British group that wears their preferred century literally on their sleeves, apparently certain subjects of the Kingdom of Fungi have been summoned as inspiration along with long departed Celtic royalty like "Philip the Good" of Brittany. This herd of cats shepherded by Michael Tyack was without a record deal for the better part of their first decade, but were signed to the doom metal but open minded label Rise Above", under the auspices of which they released "The LIck on..".

One might be forgiven for assuming that the visuals would be the most exciting aspect to the band, but on their debut they have integrated a host of influences from the golden era into their distinguished vision. Bands like COMUS, SPIROGYRA, and INCREDIBLE STRING BAND are likely influences on the Olde English axis while others like STRAWBS, DECAMERON, and PENTANGLE seem to have inspired the more reserved English folk rock building blocks. While the 40 odd minute album length might be retro, the production is crystalline and the band marshals more technology in the form of confident lead guitar, synthesizers and other keys than would be the typical bill of fare, without sounding out of place amongst the citterns, flutes and crumhorns.

Most impressive are the opening three tracks, "Miri" with its wayward yet spot on harmonies and rock backing leads into the stunning and hypnotic "My Body is Made of Sunlight" which Spotify deemed appropriate for my introduction to the band a month or so back. "The Scarecrow" is of nearly the same quality, but where they sound most like DECAMERON circa "First Light", though not the "Scarecrow" piece from that album. After these brilliant numbers the album settles back a bit. "We are long lost" gets the nomination for most disappointing denouement after an eerie expectant opening, being overly reliant on repetitive lyrics that sound like they were an afterthought. "Swallow" is pleasant enough and tends to get the most attention due to the participation of Marianne Segal on vocals from the early psych folk outfit JADE, but it's a bit lost in the jumble. Two instrumentals spotlight the band's predilection for ambient and trance like arrangements, with "The Aphid" being by far the better, sounding like a fresh take on the lengthy break on STEPPENWOLF's "Magic Carpet Ride". "Power to the Pixies" is a solid closer, embracing ancient mythology, which I'd like to think is what CIRCULUS likes to think they are about.

This is a refreshing perspective on several endearing styles that have taken a licking in recent decades but endure. 3.5 stars. Thanks, Circulus!

 The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.37 | 20 ratings

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The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by TerryK

3 stars 3.5 stars, really.

Well, there is something about a band who dresses in medieval clothing and sings about pixies that appeals to me! I managed to discover the band as I was sharing a bill with them at the Mosely Folk Festival in 2006. Youtube also helped my appreciation as well.

The album is of the length of the average vinyl album of the 1970s which doesn't cause me any problem whatsoever. First and foremost, the cover is fantastic and the music contained within is a fantastic slice of Acid Folk/ Prog Folk. I wonder whether Comus are an influence? Their music is lighter by all means, but the overall sound of the album is very pastoral and a couple of songs could have easily gone on the soundtrack to 'the Wicker Man.'

My favourite tracks are Miri It Is, My Body Is Made Of Sunlight and Power To The Pixies.

I recommend this album to Wicker Man enthusiasts, Morris Dancers, Real Ale lovers and Folk Progsters everywhere.

 Clocks Are Like People by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.80 | 22 ratings

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Clocks Are Like People
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by Blacksword
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I became aware of Circulus on an early evening, prime time culture show on British TV. I was fascinated by their sound, their strangely flippant and shy attitiude, and by the completely stupid way they chose to dress! I'm no expert on 'Prog folk',a tag that I'm sure Circulus would hate as much as the 'Folk Rock' tag applied to them by the non prog world, but this band are ridiculous bordering on brilliant.'Clocks are Like People' their second album oftens fails to capitilise on the bands real strengths, notably their ability to fuse Moog with trad instruments like Crumhorns, but when they do, and they are in full flight, it can be a mindblowing and strangely addictive brew. Refreshing too,but perhaps only to those of us, who seem to have managed to cunningly and skillfully avoid being exposed to much folk music over the years. Perhaps it's now time for a change...?

This album grows on you like fungus with each play. It's beautifully produced; the definition on all instruments coming through crystal clear. The musicianship is impressive too. I would like to hear more female vocals throughout, and also more extended play, but there are some fine moments.

'Dragons Dance' is a quirky opener, which didn't do much for me on first listen, but I think it takes time to get to know what this band is about, and what they are trying to achieve, and the nature of their sense of humour. 'Willow Tree' is among my favourite songs. The moody verses are complimented by the male/female harmonies, and the synthy interludes provide a wonderful contrast to the more trad sounding vocal sections. 'Wherever she goes' is a haunting ballad, with lyrics that make me think of the maypole song from the Wicker Man: 'In the ocean there is an island, and on the island grows an oak, beneath the oak lies a casket'.

'Bouree' is an instrumental, which has great moments when the Crumhorns come in alongside the Moog, although some of the tunes are little too 'chirpy' for my taste. It's a track of great potential, and is evidence of what Circulus are capable of. It should have been longer, a little darker, a little funkier perhaps, but it's coming from a good place. The best track is the closer 'Reality's a Fantasy' Circulus skilfully combine their folk elements with spacious Moog flurries, and a vocal part sung through a two way radio, sounding as if singer Sam Kelly was performing on the Moon and singing his heart out to mission control. This is the track I play to people when I want them to hear Circulus. It's arguably not the most representative track, it just happens to be their most atmospheric and interesting IMO.

I'm awaiting the arrival of their debut, 'The Lick on the tip of an Envelope Yet to be Sent' The reviews on PA seem to favour the debut over 'Clocks are like People' Perhaps it's typical of me to do everything back to front, but I shall post a review of the debut in due course. For now, I'm left wanting to see this band live, and wanting to hear more. 'CALP' is arguably patchy, but the formula is fantastic and I look forward to their next album.

 Clocks Are Like People by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.80 | 22 ratings

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Clocks Are Like People
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by roooegg

5 stars This is THE cd of the year! Like a corny 70's sitcom with Richard O'Sullivan when you've just taken a tub of 'shrooms, it made me laugh my arse off and filled me with childish wonder. If you think that songs about dragons, knights and men called Thogdin are beneath you then give it a miss or alternately listen too it and try not to be enchanted. The highlights for me are Willow Tree, Reality's a Fantasy and This is the Way but it's all good.... I feel you don't believe me...... well?? .......... Ho hum, I'm gonna sit in a field then and play with the pixies!
 The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent by CIRCULUS album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.37 | 20 ratings

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The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent
Circulus Prog Folk

Review by ANDREW

4 stars Circulus succeeded to photograph damned well the universe in which we breathe, restoring us to the dawn of the '70, when the prog music began to circulate in the veins of the more creative musicians and a weird iridescent atmosphere began to expand itself. One thousand colors and touches, in a teaching mixture of folk-rock, avant-garde, psychedelia, medieval heritages and the constant influence of groups like Jethro Tull, Jefferson Airplane, Emerson Lake & Palmer and the first Pink Floyd. Together with their poster glued to the walls of an old house lost in the periphery of London, too acid and mysterious mushrooms given to the light an album from the bizarre title "The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelopé Yet To Drinks Sent". The mirage of California accompanies the fantastic transcend of songs like "My Body Is Made Of Sunlight" and "The Aphid", that have the power to transport us to past times, simply maintaining the attentive look of today. The tormenting voice of Marianne Segal in "Swallow" seems to want remember us its Jade and those thirty-three turns in vinyl that permeated with their smell the air of the rooms where to listen to a disk seemed to be a tribute to the devil. Circulus seems to possess the keys of the time and love to flaunt them in all their golden enamel, while acid shoutings underline the melodic parts, observing moog and organ challenging themselves to the last blood in a duel that could be been filmed from Sergio Leone. The phosphorescent lights of "Orpheus" and the delicate gait of "Candlelight" are other two moments that put to hard test our emotional office, sprinkling our skin of insane '70s shudders and modulated nervous recalls in tune with harmonies capable to plagiarize us. Until the heart it is not stopped..
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