Volume 1, huh? They've never lacked ambition.
Decompositions: Volume Number One is Circle Takes The Square's first full length in, oh Christ, nine years. It really has been that long. The sun has set on screamo and since risen again in that time since As The Roots Undo. That's not to say Decompositions sounds dated, but that…shit, man. Things have changed.
Circle Takes The Square haven't. If you liked As The Roots Undo, everything on Decompositions will be familiar to you. They remain a feral, sprawling screamo band and Decompositions is their most cacophonous and densest slab of the genre yet. Before I forget! You can buy Decompositions from bandcamp right now. If only Robotic Empire could have done that back in the day.
Do you like chanting? They still do that.
Do you like the abrasive, coiling, screams of the Mr. Speziale and Ms. Stubelek? They still do that.
Do you like the whispering from Mr. Speziale and soft attempts at singing from Ms. Stubelek? They still do that.
There's now more of it. To a point, I suppose. Decompositions' first four tracks were released on their own in 2011.Decompositions clocks in at nine tracks and 55:30. As The Roots Undo was eight tracks, technically and about 44 minutes. Given that the first track is a one-minute intro, it might be more truthful to say that As The Roots Undo was seven tracks in 44 minutes.
As for how Decompositions was recorded, I think the drums got a bum deal. The vocals are as clear as you'd want them to be. No one here is Pavarotti. Like As The Roots Undo, a lot of careful attention was paid to the album artwork. The pieces included with the record are detailed and usually involve spirals or gentle curves. Speaking of which. You're gonna get a real small photo of the cover, but that doesn't give you a sense of the detail in it. You can see it below:
I don't hear any single tracks that are easy to break off; there's no "Crowquill" to be found on Decompositions. Yes, there's a three minute song, but it doesn't play nicely with other bands. If you're gonna listen to Decompositions, you're going to hear all of it. Or, I think you should. I'm not sure how their ornate lyrical, visual and musical style will play alongside any artists less baroque. I take the time to write this precisely because Decompositions as a single entity has such a powerful pull. It's taken me twenty odd listens to find when "Singing Vengeance Into Being" becomes "Arrowhead As Epilogue."
As for what we call this, shit, that's half the fun. Grandiose skramz? Hyper-elaborate screamo? Vulgar, untidy riff compendiums for Sea Shepard GIs?
The individual tracks are hard to pick out without extensive listens. That's not a compliment, but they'll forgive me, I'm sure. The two reviews for this I've seen, Brian's at AltPress and someone else's from Exclaim.ca, can't quite pin down the thread that pulls the record together. That thread is a South American author called Jorge Luis Borges.
I'll explain. Borges' stories, some of them had a massive sprawl and sweep: The Library of Babel, obviously, but also The Circular Ruins*. But what was important for those two stories was a sense of breathtaking, dangerous and immeasurable (or unknowable) landscapes. Decompositions has that sense of scope. (There's even a labyrinth in the Decompositions' art, for Christ's sake! It is below.) If one was ever fast enough to outrun a wolf in menacing, alien woods, Circle Takes The Square would be the band to describe that terror. A quick look at Circle's website shows they use a Borges quote as an epigraph to "Way Of Ever-Branching Paths." I have a keen grasp of the obvious.
This leads them into melodrama occasionally (see below), but we forgive them.
And the praise / it was fraudulent / Nothing sacred in my fingerprints / Shed my skin as a parting gift / Slash and burn / and start again / Through the lens of predation / Monochrome interpretations / Only fit for the color-starved / Strip-mine my flesh / I will ascend
I wonder, sometimes, if they'd write a five minute emoviolence epic about stubbing a toe.
And then there's the final track, the mostly acoustic "North Star, Inverted." It's 10:55. It might be the best song on the record. No, seriously. Stop looking at me like that. Most Circle songs are mostly thrashy screamo with moments of chanting or pretty bits, before going back into the blast beats, right?
This one is made the other way around. Once you get past the minute or so of "oh right we're a screamo band" in the first movement (I use the word loosely. Our classical musician friends would blanche, I'm sure.) it's Mr. Speziale and his acoustic guitar with light accompaniment from the rest of the band.
It would be wrong to call it a lullaby, but the lion's share of the song is gentle. It's a song about the apocalypse, but the delivery makes it sound like it's something almost casual. Like staring at the ruined city from the front of your porch with your friends, with a guitar and a bottle.
The North Star / she nods out / Doused her torch / left us forever / Without promise or penance / We're left to merge with the trench / Taught the cruelties that it takes to survive / "Just accept to be free."
So: If you're looking for a single, I suppose you could pick the final song, the epic 10:55 long closer. Go for it. See where that gets you. That's how I feel about the whole record, actually. See where it takes you. Like going to Venice as a tourist, getting lost in Decompositions is the point. Enjoy the trip.
(Originally posted on the blog.)
*Many others, of course. If you haven't read Mr. Borges, his Complete Fictions will run you 20 odd bucks and is worth every dollar. Taken as a whole, his stories showed an imagination that could traffic in ideas with nine figure budgets and execution dependent stories with tiny payoffs with life-defining significance. That he could go anywhere in between those two without any noticeable drop in quality is why I'm a Borges goon.
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