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RUSSIAN CIRCLES @ Rosemount Hotel gets 9/10


Russian Circles @ The Rosemount Hotel

w/ We Lost The Sea, Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

9/10

Thinking about the punters who might be worried about the extreme noise terror blasting forth from the stage, the thoughtful folk at The Rosemount resorted to handing out free earplugs at the bar to those in need just in case. That was the kind of show it turned out to be when veteran Chicago post-metallers Russian Circles rolled into town for the WA leg of their first Australian tour in five years with two-like minded bands in tow – immersive, noisy, uncompromising and even kind of weird in places. Three killer, bewhiskered, generously tattooed instrumental rock outfits playing long, drawn-out and highly complex songs at dangerous volume levels. For those of us in thrall with this kind of thing, this gig was a match-up made in heaven.

Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving

Opening act and local post-rock royalty Tangled Thoughts of Leaving (TToL) supplied both the noise and the weirdness on the night. Stretching out three lengthy compositions over the course of their epic 40 minute set, TToL were right on top of their game throughout. In full flight and totally consumed by the maelstrom of sound of their own making whilst belting out epic songs like Signal Erosion and Yield to Despair, TToL are quite the sight to behold in performance mode, all ferocious intensity, eyes shut concentration and flailing hair courtesy of new powerhouse drummer Gracie Smith. Situated stage left behind banks of equipment, keyboardist Ron Pollard displayed the virtuoso chops of a modern day Rick Wakeman with his keen sense of melody and technical prowess and expertly steered TToL through their sprawling songs like a seasoned pro. Bringing together elements of jazz, noise, doom and even classical (to these battered old ears anyway) to brutal, head-tripping effect, TToL played the kind of dramatic modern prog rock that could crush bones and melt minds in equal measures.

We Lost The Sea

Next up were Sydney post proggers We Lost The Sea, playing one song and five minutes more than their good buddies and label mates TToL and blowing everyone away with a post-rock masterclass that struck a neat balance between pummeling power chord crescendos, noise freakouts and emotive space echo atmospherics. A Gallant Gentleman, from the band’s excellent 2015 album Departure Songs, is the band’s most popular track and on the night among the parade of instrumental tracks on show, the song really did stand out like a lighthouse over a raging sea on a dark stormy night; six minutes plus of pure bliss. Simply exquisite. The Last Dive Of David Shaw, also from Departure Songs, showed that the band could do epic, 16 minute plus journeys into sound and dynamics just as well as any post-rock band around – if not better. Bookending the two aforementioned tracks were two excellent untitled new compositions which pointed to more great things to come from the band.

Russian Circles

Maybe it’s something in their water supply but it does appear that Chicagoans just seem to make better experimental rock musicians than most. Their technical proficiency coupled with their ability to think out of the box and push the envelope just seems to be more heightened somehow. It’s as if the creation and execution of free-flowing, adventurous music is in their blood, a natural talent that they were born with, like second nature. Think Wilco, Tortoise, The Sea and The Cake, OHMME, Grapetooth and of course Russian Circles who definitely brought their A game to The Rosemount. Boy, did they deliver and then some.

Watching Russian Circles working their magic on stage is like witnessing a finely tuned machine doing what it does best, their unforced alchemy and musical telepathy, honed from years of practice and hard gigging, apparent for all to see. As individual musicians, the three guys that make up Russian Circles are superb players to a man. But when they play together so effortlessly with such mechanical precision, they are the perfect example of a unit being greater than the sum of its parts.

Russian Circles

Bass player Brian Cook was on point all night, totally in the pocket and inventive with a potent tone that at times resembled more earthquake than musical instrument. Drummer Dave Turncrantz is not your conventional post-rock drummer. A judicious human metronome, he adds a rhythmic solidity as well as an undeniable groove to the music’s sonic architecture and makes Russian Circles a post-rock rock band that one can actually dance to as opposed to being one to only headbang slowly to. Cook and Turncrantz play together so beautifully that it is an absolute joy to behold a rhythm section working in such perfect symmetry.

With such solid bed to rest on, guitarist Mike Sullivan has carte blanche to really let loose and show what he can do and express himself he duly did – albeit all within the tight framework of the band’s carefully crafted post-metal. What was so enjoyable about watching Russian Circles play live on the night was that they operated as a proper ensemble. There was no individual showboating, no unnecessary solos, no limelight hogging, just three highly skilled players efficiently locked into each other’s groove and working towards a common goal – the perfect execution of their songs. And from where this reviewer was stood, Russian Circles’ performance was pretty much flawless.

Russian Circles

For their 90 minute set, Russian Circles stuck to the tried and tested big guns from their impressive back catalogue. Kicking off with a monolithic, muscular version of Deficit from their 2013 album Memorial, what the band proceeded to give the audience was as close to a feelgood, “greatest hits” performance as anyone is ever going to get from Russian Circles live show.  So for the diehards, old favourites like epic set closer Youngblood and a magnificent sounding Harper Lewis – this reviewer’s favourite track of the night –  from the band’s still great 2008 album Station were greeted like old friends from the past, the kind that you can just pick things up from where you left off with immediately even though you haven’t seen them for years. For the newer fans, a kick ass, three song selection from the band’s latest album Guidance featuring Mota, Vorel and the anthemic, Mogwai-esque Afrika succeeded in really hitting the spot, executed as they were with pin-drop precision. Elsewhere, live favourites 309 and Geneva revved up the intensity and volume to great effect, balancing light and dark with skill and poise.

Russian Circles

Displaying a masterful grasp of songcraft, technical execution and flow, Russian Circles live at The Rosemount was one of those epic gigs that will live long in the memory. Despite giving their all for the entire course of a thrilling career-spanning set, their performance seemed to be over all too quickly – there were no encores on the night – which, as we all know, is always a sign of a great show.  Fifteen years down the line as a band and Russian Circles still seem to have plenty of gas left in the tank. Hallelujah!

ZAC YUSOF

Photos by Anthony Jackson

 

 

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