Words About Music
Russian Circles “Memorial”
Post-rock/post-metal trio Russian Circles have more or less gotten by on releasing the same album since 2005 with minor tweaks. Not to say that Russian Circles is the only band guilty of the Post-Rock Slump (looking at you, Explosions in the Sky) but they are definitely one of the more notable and talented acts to find themselves in the endless loop. Sure, this type of post-rock (derogatorily called “crescendo-core”) was invented by highly influential instrumental acts like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but both of those bands also went on to experiment into other realms. Now let me say this, Russian Circles is a pretty good band. They’re instrumentally talented and are capable of turning a little into a lot with the use of effects pedals and samplers to create a bigger more climactic sound. But, lately, they’ve gotten rather predictable, which is leading me to figure out why they’ve gotten such praise for their fifth studio album “Memorial.”
“Memorial” is an 8-song album that doesn’t even hit the 40-minute mark, which is fairly unusual in the world of instrumental rock music. Its first and last tracks are fairly soft tracks while the meat of the album is heavy-sounding and fairly emotional music. But “Memorial” is the type of album that I think would benefit a first-time post-rock listener rather than a seasoned one. It has all the characteristics of a so-called “crescendo-core” album, except its shorter and heavy enough to benefit the heavy metal fan who’s looking to branch out. Another noticeable characteristic is that the drums seem to be pretty high in the mix on this album with the guitars almost fading out of focus at times, becoming unrecognizable notes instead of instruments. I’m sure this was intentional to create more of a specific type of mood, but that type of mixing makes “Memorial” feel more like a shoegaze album that doesn’t know what to do with itself.
Negative opinions aside, I find myself still returning to this album just because Russian Circles is such a likable sounding band, if that makes any sense. The music, formulaic as it may be, is still pretty good and flows extremely well on the album. I mean it’s not like Russian Circles’ sound is offensive or unlistenable. They are definitely great at crafting an album that makes for great background music, which, when it comes down to it, is a near-perfect description of Russian Circles’ music. Because, like I said, if you’ve heard one album you’ve heard them all. I just feel less enthusiastically about this album as opposed to, say, their first or second one because they’re on album number five. And hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?
In the world of the oddly titled post-rock genre, there are great bands and there are bands that could use some work and there are bands who choose not to change their sound because they’re good at what they do. And not all post-rock bands sound like this! Bands like Slint, Talk Talk, Tortoise, and even Don Caballero are considered early post-rock bands that dealt more with atmosphere, experimentation, and odd time signatures than with goosebumps-inflicting climaxes. So if Russian Circles isn’t your thing then that’s okay. But if you’re a post-rock fan dying to check this album out, I’d lower my expectations if I were you. The band has style, but not much substance.
SCORE – 5.2
FAVORITE TRACKS – Deficit, 1777, Lebaron, Memorial (feat. Chelsea Wolfe)
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