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Russian Circles - Guidance CD (album) cover


Russian Circles


Post Rock/Math rock

3.74 | 54 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars When Russian Circles released their 6th full-length album in 2016, they had pretty much established their 3 member line-up, and those members would continue with the band for "Guidance", namely founder Mike Sullivan on guitars, Dave Turncrantz on drums and Brian Cook (originally from the post metal band "Botch" and "These Arms Are Snakes") on bass. The band is obviously familiar with their styles at this point, and it really shows in their music on this album. The sound the original band had when they started is back full-force this time around, where their style of post-rock is very natural sounding instead of forced like many lesser post-rock bands out there. This is why Russian Circles is a highly esteemed band by both fans and critics alike. To understand what I mean by a natural flow to the band's music, you have to listen to this album.

The first half flows easily from one track to another giving the listener the feeling of a single suite-like composition. "Asa" starts off quite melodically with a lovely melody strummed by the electric guitar. After that is established, the song floats along and builds naturally with another guitar buried deeply behind everything chiming out a counter- melody. This is interrupted eventually with a very uneasy feeling as layers build rhythmlessly, then the drums roll in as the other instruments build and boil over, taking us into the 2nd track "Vorel". The guitars are tortured as the bass and drums pound out a solid foundation. This crescendo builds naturally as the track reminds the listener of how the band used to just let the music flow on its own instead of trying to force it. By the end, the music is uneasy and heavy. This is what the band was the best at from the beginning, but they did seem to lose their way somewhere in the middle of their discography, this track will give you the hope that the heart of the band has returned. The music flows right along easily into "Mota", which has a nice plucked sound that accents the moderate beat as a 2nd guitar plays sustained chords like a melody. Almost halfway through this track, the beat tightens up and then slows to a more sludgy sound as the guitar becomes much heavier. All the while, an excellent sense of melody keeps the music grounded as the guitars and bass play with and against each other. After some churning, the music turns into a wall of sound as dissonance and chaos comes in which levels out a bit when the drums pick out a more steady rhythm, but then carries the track to a explosive ending that continues to resonate until it flows into the next track, "Afrika". Drums start to roll stirring up this track, and the guitar chimes out a hymn-like melody as layers build upon each other, yet the melody continues to drive it all forward. Towards the middle of the track, as things quiet down allowing the drums to carry the track forward for a while as the guitars and bass reorganize to start a 2nd theme, this time a bit darker. The band takes advantage of this to build again creating a heavy ending with a reprise of the original melody bringing it to its final climax and then cooling off to the end.

At this point in the album, there is a real break of silence that separate the remainder of the tracks. "Overboard" builds slowly out of that silence with sustained guitar chords droning along. Soon, a slow and soft melody comes in over the drones. Melody takes over again as the melody becomes more apparent and the guitar chimes it out in an arpeggio pattern. This one builds slowly, but remains a bit understated compared to the other tracks, yet it still carries a heavy unease about it as it builds and then slowly releases again. It's a lovely, more pensive sounding track. At the end, the echoing guitar flows into "Calla" which immediately begins with a tenseness which explodes with the addition of the bass and drums. Heavy drums, bass and guitar make this a sludgy affair based more off of chords than melody. This heaviness and thickness lasts through the duration of this track. However, "Lisboa" is even slower acting more like a dirge though it is much quieter and returns to the reliance on melody again. The drums come and go at times leaving the guitar by itself until the 2 minute mark when everything gets loud while maintaining the dirge-like feel as it slowly plods along. This actually paints an effective picture of darkness. Things soften and get more pensive at the 4:30 mark, but the drums quickly bring the heaviness back again as if they haven't quite proven their point yet. It all ends off in an anthem-style state when the guitars are allowed to finally fade off into nothing.

This is really a beautiful album when you let yourself get lost in it. To an outsider that might pass by while you are listening, it may seem heavy and loud, but to listen to it in it's entirety, you feel the power of passion and emotion in the music and it becomes like a collection of classical music done with heavy metal instruments. It is all instrumental, and if you know Russian Circles, then you would already know that. But, lyrics aren't needed to paint the pictures in this music. The amazing thing that separates this band is in the natural way the music flows, sounding not so much like it's structured into a perfect plastic shape, but like it develops smoothly, almost without seams, taking shape the way it is meant to, allowing the instruments to have their say whether it's in a strong and silent way or if it's in a loud and forceful manner, they have the control of the emotion and it all feels real.

TCat | 4/5 |


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