As a longtime contributor to the Teen Beat Records sect of the D.C. indie scene, Jeannine Durfee was a member of bands like Sisterhood of Convoluted Thinkers and the Gazetteers, as well as a frequent guest on various projects branching out from the always obtuse indie label. Circular Scratch, the debut of her solo vehicle Stick Insect, closely follows the blueprint of Teen Beat's mid- to late-'90s sound, with clean but sharp bass-driven minimal pop songs supporting Durfee's detachedly coy vocals. Now based in Brooklyn, Stick Insect began as a recording project and the album gestated for over ten years as it was set aside and returned to. Perhaps because of the extended length of time spent perfecting the album, the songs all bear a certain timelessness, connecting more to the insular trends of a small scene of artists than any of the trends that came and went during the lengthy recording process. Songs like "Who Knows Who You Are" rely on the same new wave basslines and direct drum sounds that post-Unrest project Flin Flon crafted their songs from, and elsewhere "Eyes of a Fly" and "Crash" build on glitchy high-tempo drum machines and soft-hearted melodies straight out of the late-'90s March Records or Simple Machines catalog. Durfee's reference points aren't stuck in a certain era, though. The songs are also characterized by distant glockenspiel and the occasional orchestrated moments filtered through washy delay gurgles. "The Whale Eye" dips into a verse or two of Japanese, nodding to the restrained Japanese pop elements that show up throughout the album. Circular Scratch as a whole is a dreamy but somewhat dated listen. Fans of the experimental pop of Komeda, mid-period His Name Is Alive, and of course the Teen Beat roster will find a lot to love here, but might find themselves wondering what decade exactly the album was recorded in.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas