RUSSIAN CIRCLES – Empros (Sargent House)

I was turned on to the post-rock of Russian Circles’ ‘Geneva’ album by a friend at work, and having never heard of, nor heard them I went in with some trepidation. As it turns out they purvey their brand of post-rock in an assured manner, with the expected quiet/loud dynamics and massed guitars that I hoped would be there, and so having then tried their other two albums and been as equally impressed with them, I got this one as soon as I saw it had been released. The music is pretty much the high end of classic post-rock, with opener ‘309’ charging in with minimal fuss and carrying through a melange of guitar and drums for nearly nine minutes. Rhythm is all important here, and the steady beat allows the bludgeoning guitars to riff like mad, only letting up for the obligatory quiet bit every so often. A great opener, and no disappointment after their previous efforts. Despite being called Russian Circles, and naming their album after a Greek news site (!), the band are actually a three-piece from Chicago, so track titles like ‘Mladek’ and ‘Schiphol’ might seem a tad pretentious, but I suppose it is always hard to name instrumentals. In some cases they suit the songs perfectly, with ‘Mladek’ having the majestic beauty of an imaginary East European city, and ‘Schiphol’ being coldly distant and ethereal. ‘Atackla’ might be taken at a slower pace, but the power is still there in the huge riffs, and you do wonder how just three people can make such a racket. Most of tracks clock in at between six and eight minutes, which seems the perfect length for the track to build and fall away and build again and fall away again before ending on a barrage of noise, and praise must go to Brandon Curtis for this, as he has given this album such superb production values that the music seems to leap out of the speakers and beat you round the head. The only track that diverges from this format is also the oddest and weakest on here. ‘Praise Be Man’ is a shortish piece by their standards, and also features vocals for the first time, although whether or not this is a good thing seems to have been discussed at length in the forums. Over a gently plucked guitar line bassist Brian Cook intones some barely decipherable lyrics before some slowcore guitar riffing takes over and the track gradually fades away. So, overall this is a pretty good album, and as most post-rock these days trends to be of the wispy soundtrack variety rather than the heavy riffing type then it was a real pleasure to listen to this, despite the slight let-down at the end. This band are well worth investigation, and if you have never heard them before then this album is as good a place to start as any.