Finland's Bad Vugum label has been releasing oddball experimental records since 1987, but its genre-defying bands have only now begun to permeate the U.S. market. Circle, one of Bad Vugum's more prolific acts, has two current domestic releases: the 3-year-old Pori (on Knitting Factory imprint Feldspar) and last year's Andexelt (on S.F.'s Tumult label).
Sample of Circle's "Kidulgos," from the CD Andexelt.
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Like those of Loop, Low, and the Incredible String Band, Circle's name should be taken literally. Adhering to the group's strict dogma of repetition, Andexeltfeatures tight hypnotic beats, prog-rock synth washes, and heavy-metalish guitar riffs, recurring ad infinitum. The band stretches every idea -- hit or miss -- into an infinite epic, with results that can be downright exhilarating.
Circle begins Andexelt, its sixth album, with thundering drums straight off of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, then strips the beat bare and transforms it into an urgently circulating pulse. Searing feedback and tremolo guitar come crashing in, while spooky sci-fi keyboards moan like orgasmic robots. Throughout the record, Circle dispenses with normal verse/chorus structures, using subtle instrumental variations to push the songs forward instead.
Circle's fondness for double-length albums, however, is not always a good thing. Some songs on this release would've been better left in the lab. "Odultept" is lame jazz fusion with occasional cheesy dub echo and annoying flute trills. On "Usääpui," the band's bombastic guitars thunder like bad '80s metal, while the nice midtempo pace of "Vereftoi" is interrupted by some embarrassing synth melodrama. All is redeemed, however, on the off-kilter vamp "Kidulgos," which throbs with a dark jazz pulse and writhing guitars.
Andexelt doesn't quite live up to Circle's 1996 masterpiece Zopalki, which added strangely appropriate Gregorian chants to the mix. But the band's never-ending quest for the Holy Grail of riffs still conjures a heavenly vertigo.
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