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Russian Circles - Station CD (album) cover


Russian Circles


Post Rock/Math rock

3.98 | 99 ratings

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5 stars Russian Circles, one of the most critically acclaimed post rock instrumental bands, was formed in Chicago Illinois in 2004 by long-time friends Mike Sullivan and Dave Turncrantz. In 2007, before the band released their second album 'Station', the original bassist Colin DeKuiper parted ways with the band. As a result, Brian Cook, previously from 'Botch' and 'These Arms Are Snakes' sat in as the replacements bassist for 'Station' and soon became a permanent member of Russian Circles. It with this line up, along with Morgan Henderson on double bass, that the 2nd album was recorded and released in 2008.

'Station' pretty much solidified the band's position in the post rock world. It was the first released with their new label Suicide Squeeze and it was recorded in Seattle, Washington. Even with the noted heavy work of Brian Cook in his previous bands, and the reputation of loud, sonically heavy concerts, the band decided to tone it back a bit for this album in order to break away from the typical formula of 'slow build up to an enormous climax' that was plaguing post rock. The move was to incorporate more finger picked guitar notes over the power chord attack of their debut album, even though they didn't ever entirely abandon the heavy metal backdrop of the music. The album has a total of 6 tracks, with a bonus track on the Japanese release that allows the run-time to reach 48 minutes.

'Campaign' starts it all off with the new style as the track begins with the guitars approaching the track cautiously, then slowly building with one guitar playing a repetitive arpeggio style pattern and the other guitar creating a flowing melody, which later intensifies a little off of a repetitive note riff. Minimal percussion pushes things forward, and then it falls back again as a lovely melody begins to be established and the drums begin to establish a steady rhythm in the 4 minute mark. The music is pleasant and flows along well, avoiding any heaviness in exchange for a lovely, melodic tone. 'Harper Lewis' on the other hand, establishes a solid drum beat right at the beginning and the bass starts things to boiling. An ambient style guitar brings out a melody in a smooth connected series of notes which changes to a more pizzicato sound as things build up. Suddenly, within the 2nd minutes, powerful chords start to disrupt the peaceful feeling and heavy guitars begin to chime in as the drums get wilder. Even with this more sonically alive track, the music remains on the smooth side, but the guitars are still allowed to howl a bit like a bohemian monster before things calm to a smoother, and flowing sound when the drums come back in. Again, within the 5th minute, intensity builds and explodes again in another climax that has more staying power. The sound is more melodic than the sludgey sound of the heavier post metal sound, and it is more apt to explore more interesting territory.

'Station' pumps up the excitement right away when the drums tap out a faster, steady beat and the bass and guitars hit along right with the beat, increasing in intensity with each hit, until it all folds into a nice driving rhythm interrupted by the establishment of power chord driven riffs, and memories of the heavier debut album, or the extremeness of the defunct band Botch start to come through. This continues to develop into one of the band's most memorable riffs and tracks, backing off on occasion for the listener to take a breath, and then coasting along before another quick build, false pay off, then sudden surprise climax. This is all within the first 5 minutes, after which, the tempo slows a bit and then the whole thing softens to a solo plucked guitar. At seven minutes, guitar fuzz thickens up the entire thing and a wall of heaviness is created with a minimal use of percussion. There is a quick climax and then the entire thing cools down as the guitars echo to silence.

'Verses' brings in a heavy drone sounding like an approaching airplane that then receeds off into the distance while a jangly guitar arpeggio fades in with a moderately slow drum beat and sustained chords ebb and flow underneath it all. The sustained guitar creates little bouts of dissonant feedback, but also sound a bit like a synth. Then the rhythm irons itself out and a lovely melody is created by the guitar for this atmospheric and lovely track. The real payoff comes at 6 minutes, when it all comes to an emotional and heavier climax. Soon, the music cools off again and sinks back into its softer state. 'Youngblood' gets heavy early on with a faster tempo and a churning guitar building up strength quickly, forcing the drums to go double time. A heavy metal riff then pushes things up another notch and soon your head is bouncing along to the whole thing. Just before 3 minutes, it pulls back a bit, but the rhythm continues. Then both guitars come in, this time more melodically. It's a great, faster paced track, that only interrupts its steady beat for some cool drum tricks here and there. At 5 minutes, the steady beat gets broken down and things get a little atmospheric. It all builds again and then spends the last minute playing out a heavy climax.

'Xavii' goes for a nice, slower and smooth rhythm with a nice underlying organ and lovely cool down track. Some beautiful textures and sounds are explored with the guitars as this track continues on, sometimes becoming almost ambient, but then suddenly picking up a bit more power on the 2nd half. The Japanese release also included a 7th track 'Upper Ninety'. This track comes from an EP that was released a few years earlier, and you can hear the difference in the sound here as it sounds heavier and, to me, less focused. But, its still a good track and anytime you add something good to an already great album, it's a good thing.

All in all, I find this to be an excellent release from and excellent band. The fact that they were willing to explore a genre that was becoming too formulaic is a big plus, and, even though it doesn't have the same frantic and heavy feel of the debut album, I love the fact that it has a lot more variety. Yes, there are still heavy moments here, but it's not a constant onslaught, and I find myself returning to this album a lot more that the debut album, and have found that it has retained its hold on me even more than the debut album has. To me, this is a masterpiece of an album, and I have no problem rating it as such.

TCat | 5/5 |


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