Pre-Earthquake Anthem

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It's uncommon to hear the steel guitar played in an uplifting way, and Canadian graphic designer March21 certainly doesn't try on his debut musical full-length as Output recording artist Circlesquare. In fact, the opening "Trancenation" might do well in the competition for most eerily foreboding use of slide guitar in modern music, aided by a seasick bassline that lurches left as the strings slide to the right. But as mournful as this and cuts like "Roomtone" and "The Theme for Tonight" may come off, this is not strictly an album of doom-laden dirges. Quite the contrary, "Non-Revival Alarm" fractures click-funk in a subdued yet quietly chuckling way, while "All Sleepers" goofs on David Essex's prophetic 1972 hit, "Rock On." Gloomy on the outside but with wits fully intact on the inside, there is much more to Circlesquare than predictions of natural disaster. Listeners may hear the storm clouds brewing, but the summer wind whipping up before the rain has caused many a child to dance around with glee before being dragged inside.

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