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Crossover Prog • Finland

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Circusfolk biography
Back in the merry days of August 2004, in a momentary lapse of reason, in the tranquil suburb of Jokiniemi, Vantaa, Finland, a band was founded. The people responsible for this irresponsible act were musicians Ari Honkanen, Eevertti Kettunen, Pekka Pietarinen and Daniel Porschen and, most of all, future band manager Mikko Paasonen. These were rebellious young lads who had got sick of a great part of the music that controlled the airwaves, and were convinced that the only way to increase the amount of music with content was to stop whining and start making it themselves.

The following six months the bunch spent improvising and trying out new and ideas, which finally lead to a decision to record an EP. This naturally meant that the boys needed a name. For various reasons (to be uncovered thirty years from now) they became Circusfolk. The EP, recorded in the warehouses of the Vuosaari Harbour Centre with Nick o'Flare, and released in April 2005, was eventually called 'Circusfolk Comes to Town'.

Even though the release of the EP was accompanied with an acoustic performance in a gallery room in Kallio (The Greenwich Village of Helsinki), the band did not take their stuff to live arenas before autumn when they hit the great outdoors in a hometown jam. This performance was followed by a half a dozen gigs during the winter.

A year after 'Circusfolk Comes to Town' the band recorded some new songs and released them in the form of 'The Progression Bell' EP, again recorded with o'Flare and in a warehouse studio. It featured a new musician, Charlotta Falenius. The viola player also joined the band live and was soon granted full membership. 'The Progression Bell' eventually brought Circusfolk bigger and better venues and, with the song 'Haven', a victory in a demo single contest on national radio.

After achieving a reputation as an energetic and enjoyable live act, Circusfolk set their sights on their first full length record. They recruited Tarmo 'Tare' Simonen to work the table and co-produce the album. The collaboration resulted in 'Making Faces', the purpose of which is to bring the Folk faces to the awareness of the general public for the first time.

Why this artist must be listed in :
prog band... prog music... that's why

Making Faces (2007)
The Progression Bell (2006)
Comes to Town (2005)

Circusfolk official website

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CIRCUSFOLK discography

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

3.97 | 3 ratings
Making Faces

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

CIRCUSFOLK Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CIRCUSFOLK Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CIRCUSFOLK Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.00 | 1 ratings
Comes To Town
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Progression Bell


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Making Faces by CIRCUSFOLK album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.97 | 3 ratings

Making Faces
Circusfolk Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Making Faces by CIRCUSFOLK album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.97 | 3 ratings

Making Faces
Circusfolk Crossover Prog

Review by Pekka

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?

 Comes To Town by CIRCUSFOLK album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2005
2.00 | 1 ratings

Comes To Town
Circusfolk Crossover Prog

Review by Pekka

— First review of this album —
2 stars Less than a year after their formation the young folk of Finland saw the time was ripe for entering studio to record their first four song ep. They open the record with the first song they ever wrote together, The Fool. This balladish song starts with a moody guitar intro and later features a good guitar solo, a fine instrumental section in a noisier vein and respectable bass work throughout. They would play this song live for two years, work on the arrangement and with the later addition of a viola player turn this ok song into a great piece of music. They had the core of a good song here already, but it took them two years to fully realize its potential. Next we have a piece called Strange Rhythms, a song apparently sung by bassist Pietarinen in a muted low unmusical voice. Again some fine bass work and a couple of bright guitar spots, but the song itself is drastically overlong and plain unmemorable. Unmemorable is a good word for describing the next song, Horizons, as well. Brought in by a drum intro the song comes, stays for a short while and then leaves without leaving an impression. Fine tapping action on guitar though during some verses. I've seen the band live about 15 times in the past couple of years and they've never played these two aforementioned songs in concert during that time. For a reason, I say. The final song of the ep, To the Blackening Sea is a welcome step up, and still a concert favourite. Opening with a latino-kind of guitar intro the song features a three minutes long upbeat instrumental intro then turning into a calm verse followed by a short guitar solo and then picks the tempo up a notch for the next verse and chorus. In the end we return to the intro and end with some fierce riffing.

The band was still a very raw unit at this point. There are good spots and promising songwriting but also some utterly forgettable waste of space. They could've made a fine first single out of this material. There is a superior version of the Fool on their full length album and a live recording of To the Blackening Sea at their Myspace site (at the time of writing this review at least) so if you're not hell-bent on getting every 'folk release out there, there's no reason whatsoever for you to seek out this one. Well, it's sold out anyway.

 The Progression Bell by CIRCUSFOLK album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2006
5.00 | 1 ratings

The Progression Bell
Circusfolk Crossover Prog

Review by Pekka

— First review of this album —
5 stars It was a dark autumn night sometime in 2006, the place was an obscure restaurant club called Herne & Nauris somewhere in Helsinki, and the happening was called A Progressive Day's Night vol. 2. I chose to attend this weird event because I had been listening to Discordia for some time so I wanted to see them live, and hey, perhaps I'd like the other bands too, Subspace Radio and then the one I had never heard of and couldn't quite remember their name. Discordia opened the night and did a very good show indeed, all the songs from their then only release On a Thin Rope and then some really promising new stuff, but Subspace Radio failed to captivate me live, as they do to this day. The third band was called Circusfolk and I was surprised to see a bunch of twenty-something youngsters take the stage after a couple of veteran acts. I was pleasantly surprised right away as the guitarist started this sigurrosish ambient soundscape intro, after which we got a fantastic string of first class compositions crowned with inventive and skillful musicianship, wild instrumental sections and truly unpredictable out of the blue twists and turns that made me laugh out loud in awe.

This ep collects the highlights of that show onto one disc. Dead Waters HQ kicks off with some clean guitar riffing with another guitar adding its flavors on top. When the rhythm section joins in one immediately hears what this band is all about. Tasty interplay of two skilled guitarists, tight skins-beating and wonderfully groovy and versatile bass. After a couple of verse/chorus pairs the band breaks into a wild instrumental freak out section and after the storm dies down they lead the listener to a completely different place with acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies. And eventually a guitar solo accompanied by some yodeling. Yes. Yodeling. Ahven is a short intermission leading into the ballad Haven, which is a pretty straightforward song mixing tender with funky. It was redone for their full lenght album, but if I had to choose I would probably say this original is better with it's slightly more intimate atmosphere. The band's title track is my favourite song from their output to this day. Groovy rhythm as a foundation for the guitarists to pile their quirky patterns on the song goes through a couple of verses after calming down for a violin flavored mid-section which ends as heavy guitars kick in bringing with them a wonderful slap bass. Some chaotic guitar noise follows until they settle on a brilliant repetitive rhythm which always makes me close my eyes and feel every beat and changing note. I feel it should go on forever but then for a moment they make you think you're back in the beginning but end the song with some funky weirdness instead. And it all sounds natural to me, no forced transitions and out of place sections.

Despite all the love I feel for this recording I recommend you to start from their debut full length album Making Faces. This is after all a pretty thin (but still clear) sounding demo ep, but a staggeringly brilliant one as such. If you like the album, then this is the essential prequel you should be familiar with. A huge step up from their first ep; they now have the songs in place and soon they would have production too. My favourite ep of all time.

Thanks to micky for the artist addition. and to T.Rox for the last updates

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