Thursday, January 10, 2013

Circle Takes The Square - Decompositions: Volume Number One

01. Enter By The Narrow Gates
02. Spirit Narrative
03. Way Of Ever-Branching Paths
04. The Ancestral Other Side
05. Prefaced By The Signal Fires
06. A Closing Chapter (Scarlet Rising)
07. Singing Vengeance Into Being
08. Arrowhead As Epilogue
09. North Star, Inverted

Circle Takes The Square's genre-mashing debut album was both adored and criticised for its 'inconsistency'. This time around, after eight years to hone their ability, they've taken a more focused and mature approach. The more experimental, gung-ho attitude behind As The Roots Undo has been tightened up and channelled mainly into the guitar in Decompositions: Volume No. 1. Whilst there's plenty of contrast soft and loud passages to great effect, the overall tone of the album is very heavy, and the post-rock spaces of before have been clipped out. Complex guitar parts constantly chop and change, moving from confusion to haunting to brutality to panic. This ties in perfectly with the overlapping and synchronised vocal parts, potent as ever. CTTS swing through a slew of ideas and passages, dropping them before they can take root, switching the tone with ease, and it's through this movement that the music creates a sense of majesty. Clearly, the musicianship alone is pretty incredible, if perhaps closer to some weird take on progressive metal, as opposed to some weird take on screamo. For sure, this isn't As The Roots Undo, and it would be unfair to compare Decompositions too closely to their first work – this is a different beast, more streamlined and economical. But it's complicated work, too – perhaps occasionally to a fault. The lack of space means the complexity can lose its lustre after eight similar songs, and the end result can mean the album leaves less of an impression than it should, despite attempts to mix things up. Still, at its best, there's a sense of very dark, unnerving fantasy created by those hefty guitar lines and ambiguous, dreamlike lyrics. CTTS have about as much respect for conventional realism as they do conventional music. And there's a thrilling escapism in that, which whilst not perfect, has plenty of pleasure to be found.

Reviewed by Beth.

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