Nothing is more excellent than when a fairly unknown semi decent band out of nowhere transitions into a butterfly etched in silk and razor wire. What does this all mean? Let's jump back a few years, more in particular, when Circle Takes The Square released their original album, which strangely happened to be a demo. The concept of releasing a demo as your first piece of recorded music is far beyond my intellectual prowess, but grasp tightly to this far fetched reality, for one of the best albums of 2003 is about to be explained.
Soon after its release, the demo was remastered and put out on CD format under a just created label Hyperrealist. This album was definitely screamo influenced, but went back to the roots of this recently formed genre and embraced being loud and hard. While embodying this wretchedly raw sound, they were still able to have parts of melody and beauty. The dual of male and female vocals added another unique link to the chain of sound. In short, the foundation for a good band was there, but the structure itself was short of great.
Within a few songs this smashed every expectation I had set from listening to their previous effort. Although the lack of a hip hop song was sorely missed, Trigga and Quick will always be remembered. The epic level went from near nil to that of fantasy pilgrims. I was also amazed by the fact that they could create such a full sound with only drums, guitar and bass, which reminded me of Majority Rule. As The Roots Undo definitely doesn't fit in one genre, a new one would have to be created for it, post screamo perhaps.
"Intro", the first track, lures you in with a softly hummed melody which is soon ruptured by the following track, "Same Shade As Concrete", with a volley of words and sounds. This song displays one of the best assets on this album, which is the ability to subtly drop into a near silent breakdown. Similar to City Of Caterpillar, there begins a progress build back into and beyond the volume and ferocity of what was before. The seventh and longest track, "Kill The Switch", comes close to being a whole ten minutes long. Any song that can hold your attention for that long is an achievement, especially for music this hard.
As The Roots Undo is just as epic lyrically as the music. At times these written words are similar to those of Saetia, but the way they are crafted to tell a story creates a nice diversion from the vivid imagery. Lines like, "My genes didn't bless me with the foresight of a sage, but I know how this will end, in apologies and ink on the page", add visuals to the already dynamic filled sound. The lyrics are set up in a way where you can just take them as they are, and it will be great, or you can look much deeper to find more meaning.
Double bass can ruin the sound of a band, especially when there are tons of stupid double kick fills. Circle Takes The Square is able to use the double bass effectively with no cheese and metal stomping, especially in the sense of adding heaviness to certain key epic parts. It's also interesting, because nearly all the bands of this 'style' use single bass.
The vocals go through a few different types of deliveries, keeping the sound from sounding too flat. Yes, there is screaming, but there are also harmonizing singing parts, whispers, and even singing that is reminiscent of Bright Eyes.
Potential sleeper hit of 2003, but if it keeps getting pushed back, best album yet of 2004.
Picture, if you will, a buffet comprised of the most delectable cuisines imaginable, prepared by a skilled staff of gourmet chefs. Now envision an angry mob running toward the buffet, toppling over all the trays, and gobbling every morsel of food with unreasonable haste. Not stopping to chew or swallow, the members of said mob are simply trying to jam as much food into their greasy little mouths as they possibly can. A case such as this could be applied to Savannah, GA-based trio Circle Takes The Square. Circle Takes The Square play an interesting strain of hardcore dubbed "screamo" which, in recent years, seems to have galvanized the underground scene and has even seen its influences- specifically the genre's trademark visceral scream- permeate decidedly mainstream territory. According to Andy Radin's Emo FAQ (http://www.fourfa.com), the sadly short-lived New York band Saetia pioneered this sound whose predominant attributes include "heavy, fast screamed hardcore parts, abrupt starts and stops, [a] guitar focus more [on] the classic emo side, and quiet, twinkly melodic parts in between". On As The Roots Undo, CTTS invert this style in on itself, taking the so-called "classic" screamo sound and melding it with such diverse genres as grind and Mogwai-esque experimental indie-rock. While this fusion sounds all well and good on paper, in actuality, the product is far less palatable.
There are many problems inherent in As The Roots Undo, but the principal complaint I have is that nothing about the music is particularly memorable. There are a few interesting parts scattered here and there and, occasionally, the group locks in on a tasty groove or two, but after the music stops, nothing really seems to stand out.
Although the intertwining male and female vocalists are an interesting substitution to the archetypal Henry Rollins hardcore bark, and the singers manage to do a bit more with their voices than simple guttural shrieks, I found it a bit difficult at times to take the female vocalist seriously. Throughout the record, it sounded as if she was trying desperately to convey an ire writhing deeply within her spirit but, to this reviewer's ears, she came across more like a spoiled brat having a temper tantrum in the cookie aisle of a supermarket.
Another problem the group seems to run into is, although they have no shortage of great ideas (case in point: the ethereal backwards guitar in the beginning of "Non-Objective Portrait Of Karma"- arguably the album's single most memorable track), they cram too much information into each song; instead of letting each part flow organically, they simply keep piling on ideas until there's just no room left to breathe. I surmise CTTS were going for a claustrophobic effect, an ambiance that suffocates the listener with its pure, unmitigated vitriol. But the result of this incessant cramming was, on my part, pure, unmitigated boredom. Perhaps cramming as much information as humanly possible into each song was exactly the point CTTS were trying to convey with their music. Well, I guess I'm missing it.
With As The Roots Undo, CTTS are attempting to expand the borders of a dreadfully insular genre and, for that I salute them. But, ultimately, I believe that the key to the group's success is learning to transcend those borders, as opposed to merely working within them. Once CTTS learns this lesson, I truly believe they will merit all of the accolades with which they've been showered. So, all in all, a clumsy but auspicious debut from an act with a great deal of potential.
8.05 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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