Brutal but never less than utterly joyous
San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington, September 27
Russian Circles is an instrumental trio from Chicago. The band's music falls under the post-rock genre and would have them as contemporaries of Explosions in the Sky, Pelican and New Zealand's own Jakob. But where so many of the post-rock bands build their sound slowly, surely - spooning in layers and lurching and loping behind loops and spirals of melodies, Russian Circles could also be compared with Trans Am for the bolt-from- the-gate fury; the fast, clear, sharp attack of its music.
Yes, there are layers, loop pedals and various effects, but it is all made to feel so much more immediate, so very much metal and rock'n'roll based. And that is thanks to drummer Dave Turncrantz, a player who builds his beats from the shattered - and disparate - vestiges of reggae, drum'n'bass, krautrock and improvised jazz. In the end what stands - and it often feels so very apocalyptic - is a version of heavy metal bebop that is then perfectly married to the stoic ruminations from bassist Brian Cook and the always stunning but never flashy guitar work of Mike Sullivan.
Sullivan is sublime as both soloist and rhythm player. At times he seems like a supporting player when it is his notes creating the main melodic structure. Other times he stands forward to squall and squeal and it works - every time - because of Turncrantz and Cook; a phenomenal rhythm section.
The relentless pace, the ability to move from a shout to a whisper and back, itself a feat of shared instinctual dynamics and the ability to extrapolate on say, a simple Black Sabbath riff was, at times, close to overwhelming. But never less than utterly joyous - there was something profound happening here. Something that deserves to be celebrated for being so much more than three musicians expertly lassoing their own versions of rock and post-rock textures into place. But in the end that is exactly what was happening. Gruelling, brutal, intense, precise, visceral and beautiful, the music of Russian Circles was well served on the night. Masterful.
The Dominion Post