Circle - "Andexelt" (Metamorphos 1999, meta-025cd)
From Aural Innovations #11 (July 2000)
Now that the 90's are over, I guess I can comfortably state that Circle, the criminally obscure outfit from the coastal town of Pori in southwestern Finland, is my pick for 'band of the decade.' Not that anyone cares. Well, now that I hear that they've just made a deal to release future albums in the U.S. (timely given that Metamorphos seems to have gone out of business) and are intending to tour here with SubArachnoid Space later this year (Sept., 2000), perhaps they won't be so obscure now. I hope so.... this band needs to be heard. 'Andexelt' is something like the band's sixth (or seventh, if you count the EP compilation 'Kollekt') studio release, and it's another stunner. The problem still remains though, that all of their albums are so uniformly impressive that I never know precisely which album to recommend to people who haven't heard them. You wouldn't go wrong with this one, anyway. (A quick side note: In the sparse liner notes is a mention of a film of some sort (titled 'Pori') from which the cover art images were derived. That makes me wonder if the album is really a soundtrack - I'd love to see it, if it were.)
The band is still fronted by guitarist/keyboardist Jussi Lehtisalo and guitarist Teemu Elo, and retain both keyboardist Teemu Niemelä and drummer Janne Peltomäki from earlier works. Bassist J. Laiho appears to be the lone newcomer. 'Andexelt' is almost entirely instrumental, with only a couple brief moments of someone's voice appearing in "Vereftoi" and then a single word (See?) during the untitled bonus track. The first half of the album is amazing, a string of their patented testosterone-laced krautrock cadences that are constantly evolving just as they are repetitive. The opening title track is a perfect example... over the eight minutes, the echoed snare and hollow tom-beats continue uninterrupted, but then the layers of edgy guitar slice through and other freakish noises climb aboard. It gets really thick by the end, and it's really mindblowing. "Odultept" is a little more laid-back, so here it's the deft little guitar lick and guest T. Huonnen's flute soloing that add the savory treats. "20Milate" picks up the tempo, the syncopated pulsing of the bass and drums intertwined with two layers of looping guitar licks, and further covered by gentle e-piano chords and the occassional wild outburst of lead guitar. Wow! "Lisääpui" (what the hell do these titles mean?) is again more aggressive, alternating between a stately guitar fanfare, an abrasive driving riff, and a quiet bridge section full of experimentation... fabulous stuff. The second half of 'Andexelt' (the jacked-up bonus track notwithstanding) is full of great cosmic sounds and eerie, unsettling moods, though perhaps not as stimulating for me as the more kinetic opening half.
It's near impossible not to recommend all I've heard from Circle and offshoots such as Ektroverde, and 'Andexelt' is one more fine example of their alien, unfamiliar sound. I firmly believe that this sort of music, in debt so much to the krautrock pioneers Neu!, Can, etc. but then also so modern and (truly) progressive, is the key for dislodging one's tendencies to think everything's already been done. I still don't know how to sum up Circle's formula, and although I'd like to think of a way to sell you on them with mere words, I'd really rather not even try. It wouldn't be fair... just trust me, they have to be heard to be appreciated.
Metamorphos was at Rantamäki 2 B 6, FIN-02230, Espoo Finland, but I gather you won't get a response any longer. Circle is alive on the web at http://www.saunalahti.fi/~phinnweb/circle/, whereas Jussi Lehtisalo's own page at http://www.uta.fi/~tmjuleh/ seems to have gone silent. If you're in the area, best to check out one of their upcoming US shows and talk to them in person. And get as many of the Metamorphos releases as you can afford... I'm afraid they won't be easy to find after another few years.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson