Circle Takes The Square
Decompositions: Volume Number One


3.5
great

Review

by Eli Kleman EMERITUS
January 3rd, 2013 | 279 replies | 36,025 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Devoured, digested, cast out...Decompose.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a way to start my review of Decompositions :Volume Number One. I mean really, how in the hell does one begin to talk about a new album from Circle Takes the Square? The phrase “hotly anticipated” is almost sardonic in how much of an understatement it is. And why, exactly, does such a relatively obscure band have a swarm of people clamoring for any morsel of new music? To put it plainly, it’s all thanks to As the Roots Undo. Dropping their debut almost a decade ago, the emo band shook things up with a record that was “almost worth the mounds of hyperbolic claim it received.” But here we are, many years and broken promises later, wondering how the band has faired in a scene that has since erupted in many different directions, leaving them as a relic of the past.

It’s difficult to ascertain how well Circle Takes the Square have held up, as the band that released the landmark As the Roots Undo is not the same band standing before us today. They’ve matured, and quite a lot at that. Decompositions: Volume Number One is staggering in how refined the whole package is. With their first outing, the band was rough, messy, and frankly all over the place. Here, however, we are treated to a group of musicians that have honed their craft to a wonderful degree, and because of this, sound absolutely incredible as a cohesive unit. Add in an incredible production and what you have is one beautifully crafted album. On the surface, this is truly marvelous. Yet one cannot help but miss the old days, where the band lacked all of this maturity. You see, what made As the Roots Undo such a marvel was the genius buried beneath the juvenile chaos. It wasn’t clean, it wasn’t pretty, and it sure as hell wasn’t the streamlined experience found with Decompositions. It seems odd, really, to criticize an album for being too refined, but it’s difficult to praise an album that lacks the personality that defined its predecessor.

But the heart of why Decompositions fails to meet expectations is simple: it’s rather bland. Although I hate to keep drawing comparisons to their other work, Circle Takes the Square were much more interesting a band when they were experimenting and pushing the envelope. The weird, almost quirky quality that permeated their first two releases is gone. Instead of the inventive vocal interplay, we get Drew and Cathy shouting in unison for much of the album. Both vocalists have improved to an incredible degree. Drew sounds less whiny, and Cathy has since strengthened her delivery. When they’re bouncing back and forth, playing off of one another, the results are simply stunning. Too often, though, it devolves into a shouting match that lacks energy and creativity.

There are a lot of dull moments, that much is true. The band plays it safe, especially in the latter half, and it all sounds sort of flat and barren. Largely, this portion is fast, loud, and full of slamming guitars that do little to engage the listener in what is going on. Yet much of this is forgiven when Circle Takes the Square find themselves and the adventurous brilliance within. The two tracks that bookend the album are indicative of how strong the band can be when letting go and challenging themselves. “Enter By The Narrow Gates” starts things off as a slow-cooker of a song. It plods along with an admirable ferocity. Drew sings, croons, wails, and screams, giving that unpredictable sound that has earned him accolades. And this unpredictability is found everywhere early on--not only with the opener, but with the entire first half of the record. The dynamics and interesting tempo changes make the first few selections an absolute joy to hear. The frenetic guitars that give the music its drama and bombastic energy are in full force here. Throw in some impressive vocal work and the first four songs simply astound.

Sadly, this magic isn’t sustained, as the remaining songs are where the band fall off completely. Its clear from here on that Circle Takes the Square have bumped up the metal influences, shedding a bit of that misguided chaos that fans love. It’s jarring, in a way, as if Decompositions has two very different halves, made at two very different times. However, as the album comes to a close, the band throws another curve ball in the form of “North Star Inverted.” Said track is one of the most bizarre things that the band has ever done. It can best be described as a 10-minute folk “epic,” with an intense, harsh beginning leading into a very mellow, acoustic guitar lead melody. It may seem a tad trite, considering how different it is from the rest of the album. Rest assured, this isn’t some contrived attempt--it’s pure Circle Takes the Square, so in its own way it’s very dark, contorted, and beautiful because of it. The track is one of the most immense pieces the band has done, and it is a wonderful reminder of the genius these musicians are capable of.

To be fair, Decompositions: Volume Number One is not the spectacular failure it could have been. While screamo pioneers entering the ring years later seems like a set up for a late career catastrophe, Circle Takes the Square deftly avoid all that nonsense. It does not reach the heights of the now legendary As the Roots Undo, but it does signal the growth of a band seemingly still finding its way. At times chaotic and explosive, while at other times beautiful and contemplative, Decompositions is great record by a band that was sorely missed.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 3rd 2013



10553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely going to try to be more active in 2013. Happy new year, everybody.

Digging: Saintseneca - Dark Arc

dimsim3478
January 3rd 2013



3988 Comments


Album Rating: 4

Great review. I personally enjoyed this quite a bit, but yeah, it's a lot less compelling than As the Roots Undo was.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

mindleviticus
January 3rd 2013



7940 Comments


Meh.

minty901
January 3rd 2013



1913 Comments


last year i checked out as the roots undo and hated it for the vocals. i think i've grown more accustomed to extreme/hardcore vocals in recent months and am actually enjoying this album, albeit in small doses. its really well done. so i should probs go back and check out as the roots undo again with a more open mind.

robin
Emeritus
January 3rd 2013



4221 Comments


i love this record. neat work eli

treeqt.
January 3rd 2013



7848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I totally agree with you in that the tracks from the EP + Northstar are what shines here.

Digging: Jason Lescalleet - Much to My Demise

GiaNXGX
January 3rd 2013



4867 Comments


Good band, but there's much better screamo out there.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 3rd 2013



10553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, Robin. I too really enjoyed it the first several listens, but the past week I've found myself continuously skipping that last half.

Tyrael
January 3rd 2013



20394 Comments


good work Eli

Glad to hear you're gonna review more :]

Digging: Lantlos - Melting Sun

Athom
Staff Reviewer
January 3rd 2013



17117 Comments


SHOULD HAVE BEEN A JOHN HANSON REVIEW

Digging: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

robin
Emeritus
January 3rd 2013



4221 Comments


"Here's the thing about Decompositions: IT'S THE ALBUM ALL THEIR FANS HAVE BEEN WANTING THEM TO MAKE FOR 7 YEARS"

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 3rd 2013



10553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It still can be. Emeritus are free to review and frankly I'd love to see him put one up. Hanson's reviews are pretty much the reason I stuck around this site, and helped me discover a lot of awesome music.

XingKing
January 3rd 2013



9057 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm not going to bother reading this review, but this album fucking slays.

4N4LB34D5
January 3rd 2013



245 Comments


God damnit do I hate these vocals. I haven't hated vocals this hard since I listened to La Dispute for the first time

TheNexus100
January 3rd 2013



2374 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this reads like a 3

Digging: Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Pinata

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 3rd 2013



10553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

that username

TheNexus100
January 3rd 2013



2374 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

what

4N4LB34D5
January 3rd 2013



245 Comments


;>

johnnydeking29
January 3rd 2013



8664 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I disagree with the second half being a flop compared to the first (Prefaced, Vengance and North Star slay) but good job

Digging: Naked City - Naked City

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 3rd 2013



10553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"This reads like a 3"

No, it reads like a review of my opinion, with a score up top that happens to be a 3.5. I mean, how does one really tell the difference between a 3.5 and a 3? More importantly, why does one even fucking care about a 0.5 difference.



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