Russian Circles


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Russian Circles are a heavy rock instrumental trio from Chicago, and Enter is their debut long-player. Comparisons to Pelican and Isis have been tiresome at best -- and inaccurate at worst -- as RC differ in key ways. The construction of their tunes is more intricate, not reliant as much on the heavy riff and the elegant phrase -- though it's not quite as delicate as Explosions in the Sky or Growing, either. On the opener, "Carpe," it's easy to hear that there's a lot happening. Guitarist Mike Sullivan and bassist Colin DeKuiper engage in musical counterpoint, which is not knotty math rock, either -- dynamic ranges are not built as much as employed in each section of the tune. Repetition between three-note vamps is present, but only as a grounding point. Drummer Dave Turncrantz has both great responsibility and great freedom. The tune crunches, folds back on itself, and then comes out on the other side with an entirely new musical statement to make, carrying just a hint of its origin. What's amazing is that this happens in each of this platter's six longish tracks. The placement and arrangement of the drama and flow within dynamic ranges make these tunes feel like songs, complete with bridges, crescendos, and intros and outros. "Micah" is another example. The cut begins to build on its fairly simple melodic fragment quite quickly, and then, as the three high strings are meandered upon by Sullivan, he tosses in a set of lines that are more intricate and winding, as DeKuiper moves him toward something else, something foreshadowed but not articulated, almost departing the rhythm section. Turncrantz's drums hint at what's coming: the cut explodes into raucous glorious heaviness and just as quickly eases back from the sonic abyss. This is not some kind of Godspeed You Black Emperor! trip. This also doesn't mean that Russian Circles are incapable of roaring into metallic frenzies (check out "Death Rides a Horse"); they most certainly are, complete with knotty stop-and-start-on-a-dime pyrotechnics. While there isn't a weak cut here, and each becomes part of some musical journey into tight, constructed yet somehow sprawling rock, there is vulnerability amid the heaviness and noise. It's like a form of instrumental poetry, woven, articulated slowly and deliberately, and all designed to take you "there," wherever your particular "there" is. The buzz on this band in Chicago has been big and it's easy to see why. Enter is a very impressive debut.

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