Russian Circles - Gnosis [Sargent House - 2022]
The instrumental trio Russian Circles cut their teeth in the twilight of post-rock, but that label hardly does justice to their particular brand of precise, dynamic rock. It is sometimes hard to see what development there is when the core principles – bass, guitar, drums – are already in place and have functioned so well up until this point. But with their latest release, Gnosis, it’s altogether plausible that we are experiencing a new Russian Circles.
What is new, or at least different in the development of Gnosis is the almost impossible dialectic they achieve between claustrophobia and well-measured spacing. The works included here retain familiar rock tropes of chugging, arpeggiating, and surgical exactness, but it’s how these are pulled into one throbbing organic whole is the real payoff. I listened and re-listened to try to figure out exactly where this takes place, but my best guess is that the collaborative efforts that are Gnosis were played in a double-movement of isolation and a desire to belong to something that was not yet possible or definable. The second track “Conduit” hits as hard as anything Russian Circles have done to date, and nonetheless, its circular patterns are infinitely structured, serialized almost. And then a bassy gurgling enters the mix, and it sounds like a song is being formed, only to be drowned back into the recursive refrain. The album’s seven tracks, each lengthy, save for one shorter work, “Ó Braonáin”, a penultimate quiet interlude before the last and best song on Gnosis, “Bloom”.
Fans of Russian Circle’s work will be pleasantly surprised by the group’s expansive outlook, focused as it is on the most rudimentary of forms. Anyone unfamiliar but with a predilection for heavy, progy rhythms will also find something in the dark miasma of Gnosis. Highly recommended! Colin Lang