Review Summary: Circa Survive, still at the top of their collective game
Few bands have been able to rival Circa Survive's longevity, creativity, or consistency. The way this group has been able to retain its not-of-this-world
luster – from Juturna
's emotional indie roots all the way through The Amulet
's swirling, blizzardous alt-rock, they've continually found ways to to vary their craft. Their distinctive yet wide-ranging discography is as rare as it is enviable, with each record serving as an essential sojourn within Circa Survive's broader and seemingly infinite odyssey.
For as much as Circa Survive feels like a permanent fixture – forever etched into the annals of post-hardcore – A Dream About Love
is by contrast an observation of the ephemeral. It's a theme made all the more appropriate by the twenty-nine minute EP's own brevity, cohesively functioning like a ghostly standerby of events that will come to pass: life, love, and even empires. On the sinister opener 'Imposter Syndrome', Anthony Green broodingly warns "America is burning from the inside out / I don't think we're meant to be free" amid muted, aqueous electronic backbeats that nearly, maybe even vaguely, call back to 'In The Air Tonight' only instead of a thunderous drum fill we get Green's raspily screamed "I was searching for a painless way to die" as electric guitars ramp up and collide with cascading layers of backing vocals until the entire thing exhausts itself and implodes in a cloud of dust. The song's structure and abrupt cliff fall of a conclusion symbolizes (perhaps inadvertently) the collapsing society which Green is lamenting, thus adding yet another dimension to the song's emotional and metaphorical potency. It's a brilliant start to the EP that is recognizably Circa Survive, only with more of an expansive, ravine-like atmosphere which seems open and liberated in the wake of The Amulet
's dense, foggy winter.
Similarly, much of A Dream About Love
feels like it is spent freeing itself from a dream-like mist; almost a struggle for lucidity, or understanding. The melodies are differentiable but also dissonant, the guitars are oft-awashed in a haze of disorienting feedback, and most of the tracks either enter or depart the scene to a series of very sharply defined instrumental notes, thus creating the contrast between concrete and mystical. The result is a satisfyingly unified air, one which perhaps Circa Survive fans have already come to expect. It's evident from the word go
and continues through 'Drift''s born-of-fire riffs and twinkling-star pianos, 'Our Last Shot''s thunderous drumming and eerie sound effects, 'Even Better''s melodious gravitational pull, 'Gone For Good''s keyboard-laden somberness, and 'Sleep Well''s synth-wrapped stuttering percussion. It's a thrilling weave in and out of consciousness, working brilliantly and as-designed. Throughout the entire thing, vocalist Anthony Green also performs up to expectations – his shrill wails providing a chilling backbone to the band's hazy and simultaneously lush concoctions. By the end, A Dream About Love
ends up representing the band's resume-to-date quite well while still offering something different; a perfect example of how to balance experimentation with familiarity and structure.
If Circa Survive's discography is a pond, then each new release is like a stone that sends ripples through its surface to ensure that their craft never stagnates. A Dream About Love
is aesthetically dreamier and also a bit cleaner sounding than most of the band's preceding works, but it's a welcome stroke of accessibility that doesn't forsake the Circa Survive name. This is likely the best EP that this band has released, and it also goes toe-to-toe with any of their full-lengths – save for perhaps 2010's Blue Sky Noise
, which arguably remains their career high water mark. By default that makes A Dream About Love
essential listening for any fan of this band – and if you're not yet a believer, then this little gem ought to do the trick.