Circle Takes The Square
As The Roots Undo
t’s hardcore. You know the score: grinding and lurching guitars, screamed vocals, blast beats and just a bit of nihilism. Circle Takes The Square does it a tad differently however. It doesn’t take long to figure this out: the record opens with a lone whistler, crafting a lonely wavering line. But we’ve all been there before with hardcore albums only to be bludgeoned for the remainder. The next song should dispel those ideas.
You’d think so. “Same Shade of Concrete” amid its normal wanderings in the messy debris of a post-hardcore spazz-fest contains a multitude of half harmonized chants and a breakdown of deep electronic bass throbs, firmly removing itself from the tenets of a simple existence in the hardcore continuum though. Despite this, immediately following, the album shies away from these experiments for the next song and much of “In the Nervous Light of Sunday”. Is it a ruse to pull in listeners that are still shell-shocked, unable to pull the disc off the stereo? Is it an earlier recorded song, finding its way onto a far more mature disc than it has business being a part of? Maybe both.
Either way, those willing to stick it out past these restrictive signposts are met with further expansion and middling for much of the album’s remainder. The group, in the last two-thirds of the album, makes like a Blood Brothers/Envy/Godspeed hybrid that can never quite figure out which one it wants to ape more. As might be expected, though, if you can get behind the idea of it, it’s a fascinating ride.
The turning point is the breakdown of “Nervous Light” in which everything falls apart, leaving a guitar and a delay pedal to bring the song to its conclusion. From here the stop/starts come less furiously, giving way to extended repetitious melodic phrases that never quite cohere the way some of the finest City of Caterpillar material ever produced. “Interview at the Ruins” comes closest to channeling their ghost, but most times the group merely leaves the listener wanting to go back to that City to get the real thing (most notably missing: anthemic head-bangingly gorgeous moments of release).
And perhaps this is where the divide exists between the aforementioned bands (aside from the Blood Brothers) and Circle Takes The Square. While CTtS has emerged from a more spastic hardcore past, the move towards the epic post-rock that permeates the second-half of this disc may be that much more difficult. Or perhaps they’re just replicating an already perfected template. I’m still not quite sure which. But it’s obvious that this is an honorable effort that doesn’t quite measure up to the established canon of post-hardcore, but comes up tantalizingly close enough to build anticipation for the future.