Russian Circles
Station


3.0
good

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
May 17th, 2008 | 46 replies | 21,333 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Post rock with power chords

If you read the self-written biography of Russian Circles posted on their website, you’ll find their humbleness-be damned sound-description includes thesaurus humping words like gargantuan and narrative, with songs that “flow seamlessly from beautiful soft ambience to truly defined melody to massively thick heaviness with a gradual progression that never leaves you lost.”

Geared up for generic post rock yet?

Don’t be. In a genre chock full of bands trying to rewrite The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place (with each failure hammering another nail into post rock’s ever-closing coffin), Russian Circles do their damned best to be a breath of fresh air. Rather than indulge in the glorious sound-scapes and masturbatory EQ fondling of their peers, Russian Circles make music that legitimately rocks. Gone are the noodly pretentions and dreary periods of ambience. Enter heaps of guitar licks, audible bass, and drums not totally relegated to gratuitous climactic cymbal smashing. Indeed, with their second album Station, Russian Circles attempt to push the boundaries of post rock, cranking the volume and damning the consequences. And on that front, Station is a success. If only Russian Circles hadn’t fallen victim to the plagues of their peers and broken out of their self-imposed shell.

See, Russian Circles clearly know how to write a damn fine tune, and Station rocks that tune six-fold. Four out of Station’s six songs follow a strict formula: Begin with tensioned guitar running riffage, add some furious and/or reserved drumming (which, it's worth noting, makes a star out Dave Turncrantz), bring the house down with a profusely intense climax, and resolve it all gently. The most obvious (and most delicious) culprit of said formula is “Harper Lewis”, which shows Russian Circles nailing all the points of their formula to a T. It has an opening vignette that builds up the anxiety, gives way to a frenzied central climax courtesy of a “dun-dun-dun” breakdown, and then the glorious resolution of the piece, stamping optimism after an adventure of a listen. It’s the record’s best track, and indeed, as the crux to the albums opening half, “Harper Lewis” exemplifies what Russian Circles attempt on Station perfectly: metal-twinged instrumental music that actually approaches the “gargantuan sound” they imposed on themselves. To their credit, Russian Circles imitate said sound well, if to a lesser extent than they do on “Harper Lewis”, throughout Station. Yet even though Station’s greatest strength comes from Russian Circles’ desire to bring something fresh to the table, therein lies the record’s biggest problem.

While the power chord mayhem of “Harper Lewis” is an awesomely welcome take on a dying music, it’s not so incredible as to replicate it numerous times on a single record. On “Youngblood”, the Chicago trio opens with eerie guitar, goes for a hellfire breakdown complete with furious power chords and intense drumming, drops out to lull the listener back into a false sense of security, then throws caution to the wind and lets everything loose again. The album’s title track follows the exact same pattern, making Station get frustratingly similar very quickly, turning a bevy of smartly crafted tracks into a giant mesh of sameness. Ironically, the fact that so much of Station stays strictly within Russian Circles’ fresh sound makes the more standard post rock tunes stick out from the formulaic pieces. “Versus”, for example, is a slow burning piece decked out with delay pedals and the like, and album closer “Xavii” out-Lows Low with its arpeggiated reverb-heavy phrases and minimalist drumming. As a closer to such an exhaustingly intense record, “Xavii” provides the album’s greatest highlight, as it’s the one track of Station that doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard.

That’s the biggest problem with Station: it’s not a bad record, it just tries to be too “gargantuan” for its own good. If Russian Circles can sidestep some of their self imposed clichés, they have the potential to be a much needed force in the post rock scene. With only three members, Russian Circles bring music louder, more furious (and sometimes immensely more interesting) than some of their septet, octet, nontet, etc. peers. It’s clear they have the ability. If they ever figure out how to use it, watch out.



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user ratings (423)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 5th 2008



15732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Editing out some kinks, you know how it is

Aficionado
May 5th 2008



1027 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

fuck
I already had a review for this done, but I have to wait till tommorow

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 5th 2008



15732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Your review will probably be awesome though, so no worries

Aficionado
May 5th 2008



1027 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

thanks
your review was good too bro, brought up some good points. I'm looking at a 3.5, thought it was a vast improvement over Enter.This Message Edited On 05.05.08

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 5th 2008



15732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Never heard Enter outside "Carpe" and "New Macabre", wasn't too interested in getting it, so I don't know how this is in the Russian Circles progression of things.

Eliminator
May 5th 2008



2067 Comments


Geared up for generic post rock yet?
that's exactly wha this album is

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 5th 2008



15732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

well

maybe a little

but I maintain that their sound is outside what normally gets thrown in with post rock.This Message Edited On 05.05.08

spoon_of_grimbo
May 5th 2008



2240 Comments


i just ordered "enter" the other day (incidentally, i went for the US release without the track "re-enter" as it was cheaper - am i gonna be missing out hugely by not having that song?), having heard New Macabre and Death Rides a Horse (both awesome).

i listened to Harper Lewis on their myspace, and wasn't hugely impressed, but it wasn't bad. if i like "enter" i'll probably get this too anyway.

Eliminator
May 5th 2008



2067 Comments


but I maintain that their sound is outside what normally gets thrown in with post rock.
lol wut this is basically Enter but with more generic post rock and its not like enter was all that original in the first place so weezer

Aficionado
May 5th 2008



1027 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

lol eliminator
It's not as generic as eliminator is making out to be, certain aspects make it somewhat different. This Message Edited On 05.05.08

Eliminator
May 5th 2008



2067 Comments


um no not really but ok aficaonda

The Jungler
May 5th 2008



4827 Comments


mildly interested in this band, but not enough to listen to a whole album.
real good review though.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
May 6th 2008



2125 Comments


Boring band imo.

natey
May 6th 2008



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

how much longer are we going to keep talking about post-rock dying... I mean every year there's a lot of average and some really good. Sounds like every other genre.
I liked Russian Circles first album before I even knew about post-rock, so I'm a little excited to hear how the new one is.This Message Edited On 05.06.08

Eliminator
May 6th 2008



2067 Comments


no theres never any realy gud post rock plz return to ur homeland befor i have to get serius

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2008



15732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

how much longer are we going to keep talking about post-rock dying...


Until A) Bands stop all sounding uncomfortably similar or

B) It actually dies

Iai
Emeritus
May 6th 2008



3553 Comments


Never heard this band but I'm willing to bet EC is right.

robin
Emeritus
May 6th 2008



4248 Comments


the earth is a cold dead place?

HighandDriving
May 6th 2008



3288 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

by Explosion in the sky, kinda a post-rock staple.

RJayZ
May 6th 2008



84 Comments


Great review. I was really interested in this band before reading it...now slightly less interested, but I'll still give them a shot.



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