For those of you familiar with Neo-Psychedelia, Lo’Fi, and the Elephant 6 label, you know that there are a lot of bands out there that appear to just be rip-offs of classic 60’s bands like The Beatles, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and The Doors. Their albums usually only stay in your CD player for a couple of days and you feel like wanting more. Circulatory System is a much different type of band, the concepts and sounds this band comes up is a much needed breath of fresh air. I found myself in awe analyzing this record for this review and I have come to the conclusion that I would chose this album over Sgt. Pepper any day, no joke.
If you didn’t already know, Circulatory System is the band William Cullen Hart formed after the breakup of Olivia Tremor Control, another one of my all time favorite bands. Circulatory debuted with this album not too long ago in 2001. I’ve heard fans describing it as a mix between Olivia Tremor Control’s Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage: Animation Music and I can see where they are coming from, although there are some significant differences.
This debut is about twenty minutes shorter than past OTC releases with the collages of weird noises being completely gone. Actually not many of the songs go over two minutes, all the songs flow into each like one big song and its amazing how much ground is covered with the seamless flow between tracks. The sound is also darker and moodier, and in my opinion more confusing that past OTC records which says a lot given the complexity of Black Foliage: Animation Music.
Is this a concept album? I’m not sure, but I’m going to go ahead and call it one. You could get space themes form The Lovely Universe or feel like you are at sea with Should Symbols and Maps and Should a Cloud Replace a Compass? One thing can be certain thought, this is not a normal record at all and It wouldn’t be surprising if one went into a daydream or felt like going on vacation, and no I don’t do psychedelic drugs, I just like weird music, okay.
The drumming here is great. It’s due to the amount of extra tracking and extra percussion that gives a very full and tight sound. Symbols and Maps is a great example of the dense layering of the percussion sound. The effects of this layering is quite amazing, Symbols and Maps wouldn’t be dramatic without the fuzzy drums in the background.
The vocals also deserve a mention, the double tracks harmonies, whispers, and swirly melodies add a whole new world to the lush sounds already there. Honestly these vocals are that good; again I prefer them over The Beatles. The back up vocals are also superb, the melodies they sing are always catchy.
Overall I always enjoy falling asleep to this album, the whole feel is very relaxing almost in a trance like way, and I’m not meaning that in a bad way. Actually it’s much the opposite, when you are all by yourself listening to it you get more of opportunity to absorb different sounds, I’ve had this CD in my stereo on and off for the last two months, I’m still hearing new things.
For the most part, Circulatory System is not easy listening and referring back to my opening statements, this is not an album to listen to once, have fun, and then forget about it. I actually only started liking it about the fifth time I heard it. But this shouldn’t put you off; there were some standout tracks like Yesterday’s World, The Lovely Universe, and Symbols and Maps that I liked the first time round. I guess there was just something about it that I wanted made me give it another try.