Circle X

Celestial

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Celestial gave Circle X its first major release in years; almost 12 years, in fact, since its last album, Prehistory, in 1983. Having spent all the intervening time continuing to work its own particular furrow of inspiration, the band was primed to go all out when given the chance, and did so in spades. Reusing a song from a then-recent single (the effective creeper "Some Things Don't Grow Back") but otherwise coming up with new material, Circle X made it seem like No Wave never went away. If anything, some of the more explicit screams and delivery unexpectedly made the quartet sound like avatars of the emo scene; at least, in the more aggressive Rites of Spring/Drive Like Jehu sense than the washed out, late-'90s tide of whining hype. Witsiepe's frazzled, barely comprehensible vocals connect the dots from '60s/'70s freakouts to turn of the millennium freakishness. If anyone in particular is a forebear, Arthur Brown (from the Crazy World of...) might be the one to name. Possessed of a high screech that steers clear of cheesy wailing, Celestial can be nails-on-chalkboard intense, but maintains a commanding sense of performance. Witsiepe is also one of the finest guitarists; his dank, clattering style mixes feedback power with a crumbling-at-the-edges feel, enhanced by the prominence of low crackle and snarl in the mix and frequent use of it for atmospherics in place of simple crunch. The combination of his husky semi-whisper and guitar noise on "Tell My Horse" is a great showcase for both. The rhythm section keeps up the generally foreboding, confrontational well, able to shift from nervous energy to subdued semi-float and even credible dub work at the drop of a hat. Keyboards from Pinotti and Letendre add in more shadowy feelings -- "Gothic Fragment" has both an amusing title and an unsettling mood, thanks to the organ and strange vocal snippets.

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