Russian Circles | Station
I had been waiting for this album for a while. Whereas their post-rock brethren (who are more a collection of orphans rather than of lineage) spend time trying to create opuses drenched in walls of sound, operate under formulas that give little creative latitude, and function meditatively and patiently, Russian Circles is the white one in a field of black sheep.
For being only a trio, Russian Circles are able to create songs that are simultaneously massive and articulate. The confluence of precise and creative drums, locomotive bass, and dextrous and powerful riffing works like a military- where efficiency and lethality are critical. In the hands of these artisans they bring us their second (kinda third) EP, Station.
And I’m a little torn- On the one hand, this album is fantastic. On the other hand, it’s not what I was
looking hoping for. Their first (quasi) major release, “Enter”, which was more-or-less the rerecording of their original EP with the addition of the title track, was brutal and complex; low-key and morose on tracks like “Micah” to the violent and volatile title track. It wasn’t at all playful or even too open to interpretation- the drums and guitar were simply feeding coal into the engine of a train on rails already lain by Russian Circles (which I think was bearing somewhere between Siberia and Hell). On this album, however, they’ve taken their time with the songs. They’ve omitted climactic overtures in exchange for a few “where is this going” build-ups that just don’t go anywhere. That kind of abstinence could be considered tastefully reserved, but here- for me- it’s musical blue balls.
At the same time, it almost feels greedy to ask for more. Mike Sullivan is already carrying the weight of two or three Guitarists in his loop pedal and PRS. But I want it anyway. Sorry dudes (i still severely love you).
So it’s not the post-metal progressive behemoth that Enter was. But it’s a significant and strong follow-up to Enter. There are a few transcendent moments on this album reminiscent of the six-string fury that was spattered all over the first album like a blacklight in a motel room. Notably, “Harper Lewis” and “Youngblood.” Here they’ve chosen to marinate these moments a little more- pull back on the autistically manipulated guitar, and put more gas under the rhythm section.
Climax or not, Russian Circles do on this album what they do best. Hitting the nail right through the intersection of musicianship and passion. I give it a 7. Buy it now.
Upon further listen, there’s nothing in this album that will stick with you a week after listening. Dropping this down to a 5. Still listen to the things below though because it is badass.
LISTN | Harper Lewis
WTCH | Harper Lewis live in Chicago