Circle - Manner [Ektro Records - 2013]“Manner” is the 20th studio album from creative Finish multi-genre lined locked rock groove project Circle. It finds the band offering up a more compact & focused selection of six fairly short songs( by Circle standards), that nicely present the bands sound in a more approachable light, yet still hold in the bands quirky/ distinctive edges. The album originally appeared in late spring 2012 on cult US label Hydra Head, and I’m reviewing the January 2013 CD reissue of the album.
This album was the first album to be released purely on US shores, and it’s clear the that the band are trying to tone down & focus their often sprawling & repetitive tracks into more conventional song structure that often take in a fairly set verse/chours type structure. On the first few plays through I felt a little underwhelmed by the whole thing, as it seemed to lack the spark & flare of a great Circle album. But the more & more I’ve played it, the more I’ve found myself very much enjoying the whole record, as ‘yes’ it does offer up a more compact/ safer version of the bands sound, but each & every one of the six songs manages to weave in that distinctive Circle gene to it’s make-up.
The six tracks here last between just over the four minute mark, to just over the nine minute mark. Opening up the album is “Lintu Joe”, and it's a moody mixture of: 1970’s lumbering rock riffing, & almost funk licked stop 'n' start bass/ gitar work. With sudden darts of spacey synth textures & dips into tinkcling/ sustained paino/gitar runs, which bring to mind taut soundtrack music from a 70’s crime drama. This is all topped off with Mika Rättö wabbling & theatrical finishing vocalising.
After this we have “Blue King”, which I guess is one of the most commercial/ instant Circle tracks I’ve heard- it’s built around a simple, memorable & fist pumping 80’s metal riff that has almost pop rock simmer to it, the track features English vocals & a hum along chours that takes in the chant ‘break down or you just collapse”. Track three is a cover version in the form of “Here Come The Warm Jets”, which find the band stretching this Eno classic out into a blissed-out, repetitive & vocaless Circle soar & stomp.
“Fantasy” is next, and this I guess is one of the more weird tracks here- it starts with a mixture of climbing & weaving jazz organ, & 1970’s rock riffing. Then just when you think you got where the tracks going, it shifts into the verse which mixers together taut bass work, wondering & showy theatrical classic/ jazz tinged piano runs, that are all topped off with Mika Rättö warbling & flamboyant vocals, befoe we soar-up into the chours that sounds like weird & operatic take 1980’s AOR.
After this we have “Mustaa kultaa” which finds a pumping 1980’s metal meets status quo like riffing, with epic & dramtic sci-fi effect lined vocals. Then finishing off the album we have the longest track here “Potero”, which starts off with a mixture of pumping yet locked Doors like organ work that’s weaved with a 1980’s AOR synth line. When the vocals come in the guitar & bass joining in too this odd sort of waltzing/ ballerina gone prog rock/ 80’s AOR vibe of the track.
I’d say for long term fans of this project “Manner” is very much of a grower- it’s more conventional & at times commercial song structures may at first disappoint, but do preserver as each track here is full of rewarding & quirky Circle touches. And for those who have not yet heard any of this great & distinctive bands work- this is the perfect, relatively compact & user friendly introduction to the work of Circle, and I can whole heartily recommend it.