|Tom Hayes||26-Oct-2006||Circus – Circus|
The Swiss quartet Circus is as diverse as the country itself. Though based in the Germanic city of Basle, Circus does not recall any band that is typically known as Krautrock. And their instrumentation is highly unusual, featuring only flute, bass, drums/percussion and vocals with occasional saxophone and acoustic guitar. With such a stripped down line-up one would expect a more minimal recording, but in fact Circus have quite the full sound. Much of this has to with bandleader Marco Cerletti’s bass gymnastics. Through pedals and effects, he obtains guitar and organ like textures, while also maintaining that wonderful “woody” bass sound that can often drive a recording. Of course, the dedicated flute player helps immensely in the melody and solo department. Though most known for their second album “Movin’ On”, arguably Switzerland’s finest progressive rock moment, this debut is not one to overlook. More subdued than its successor, it nonetheless packs a wallop, through dynamic change, when you least expect it. Again, easy comparisons are tough with Circus, but UK stalwarts Van der Graaf Generator come to mind in the vocal department (courtesy of Roland Frei), and the constant counterpoint allows us to pull out the Gentle Giant credit card. There’s also a sophisticated chamber music feel throughout. As of this writing, there still remains no official CD reissue of any of Circus’ 4 albums, with the exception of the long out of print “Movin’ On” released on Decoder in the early 1990s.
|Hugues Chantraine||26-Oct-2006||Movin On’|
Circus has a reputation for having one of the more uncommon line-up of the genre - no keyboards and no electric guitars. Not so total for the guitar for there are bits of it although staying discreet, some sounds I cannot see done other by a guitars through effects. This absolute masterpiece ( I strongly insist on this) gradually builds up to a superb climax progressing from one track to the other. Hauser is a real top-notch percussionist and puts in an impressive performance using all sorts of instruments and makes some of the loveliest vibraphone lines since Greenslade in Colosseum. Bassist Cerletti is the only non-Alemanic Swiss but is certainly a impressive bassist and an accomplished guitar player. Grieder and Frei are simply an amazing duo on wind instruments and together with Cerletti make a superb vocal section. The music is rather unique in some points making you think of VDGG (mostly the saxes but also in one superb section of singing much better than Hammill himself because more melodious) , but also Maneige during the classical influenced moments , Crimson but IMO not much like Tull although this album is loaded with orgasmic flutes.
‘Bandsmen’ is a nice tune poppish but intentionally simple , only the unusual line-up intriguing us enough to go on further. ‘Laughter Lane’ is quite a gem and a solid progression from the opening track but stays in the song format and one knows that much better is to come but this would be a real gem for any other band. With their third track ‘Loveless Time’ still in song format , we now move in serious business and we are aware that this will be a real interesting oeuvre that is to come. Movin' On’ (get the album title?) with ‘Dawn’, which is entirely instrumental (8 min long), and is one of the better examples ever of what descriptive music is , and ranks up with some of the masterpieces of the impressionist classical composers of early 20th century. In between some realyl gloomy atmospheres at the end of the night to the soothing birds calls and wind breezes to the first rays of the sun, this is simply astounding.
And now comes the piece de resistance . They could've easily made a suite of this 22 min+ number but chose to let it express itself as an entity of its own. This pieces starts of with the most genial rhythms sprinkled with sax and flutes lines and 6 min into the number comes in some scatting (no jazz feeling though) with suddenly one of the three vocalist breaking into another scheme making this grandiose. Bass and flutes take over only for Roland Frei to break into this Hamillian-singing worthy of “Pawn Hearts”. We are now just barely half-way through and are now lying on the floor ready for the final blow, the ultimate nail into our coffin. The music flutters by, twiddles , twirls around you and circles, swirls not giving you an instant to recuperate and now comes the blow. The finals verses are shared in the most beautifully call-and-respond manner so well delivered that if have not shot your intellectual wad by now, you must be frigid or impotent. The number closes of with fabulous music unfortunately (the only slight mistake) sticking too close to my fave number from Crimson, ‘Starless’.
Wow! Repeated listening in the last four years still
have not calmed me down as I shot my intellectual wad
just writing this review not even listening to it. I
don't know how this album is almost never cited in a
desert island list, because this belongs on everyone's
island. SIMPLY ASTOUNDING.
|Mike Prete||6-August-2001||Movin' On|
This is one of the few albums to come out of Switzerland that I have heard and has a very unique sound. The lack of keyboards is filled by melodic woodwind playing from flute and sax and excellent vibes which provide a similar dimension to that of keyboards. There is a large amount of acoustic guitar to contrast the electric, as well as adding to the already atmospheric sound created by the flutes.
Most of the music seems rooted in jazz-based symphonic rock, but I'm at a loss to come up with other bands to compare them too. The instrumentation of the band is very unique. They are able to shift seamlessly from up-tempo rocking passages to mellow and atmospheric parts. The vocals are in English, but are not a hindrance since there is not much of an accent (I do prefer when bands sing in their native language though), and they are not present throughout the album anyway.
The first two tracks are my favorites, having a nice balance between
beautiful mellow passages and up-tempo rock, and filled with relatively
complex playing. "Loveless Time" and "Dawn" are more atmospheric and
beautiful pieces. The 22 min title track contains some great, complex
instrumental passages, but as a whole doesn't keep my attention. Much of the
song sounds improvised, and doesn't flow together as well as the other
material on the album. Overall, Movin' On is definitely recommended.
Symphonic fans looking for something a little different should check this
|Sjef Oellers||4-April-2001||Movin' On|
Movin' On is one of the best progressive rock albums from Switzerland. The first three tracks are fairly typical, but good seventies symphonic rock. Here they sound like mid-seventies Hoelderlin with hints of Genesis and the gentler side of Gentle Giant. The fourth track, "Dawn", features darker, more experimental music recalling the Swiss band Island, Van der Graaf Generator, and Gentle Giant. The 22 minute title track is a masterpiece: a long suite with good use of dynamics. The dramatic intro is great with heavy fuzz bass (almost like the Argentine band Bubu). An eerie flute solo sets in and the pace slows down for a minute. Slowly the music increases in intensity again and the heavy Zeuhl-ish bass returns. The track continues for several minutes with dramatic, dark progressive rock somewhere between Van der Graaf Generator, Island, and Bubu. About halfway through the tempo slows again, but the overall atmosphere remains fairly ominous. There is a longer vocal section as well which reminded me of Gnidrilog. Next, a fantastic intricate section follows: this is clearly classically inspired music with somewhat of a chamber music feel (not unlike Maneige on "Les Porches" or their 74-75 live album). The track concludes with the opening theme. Brilliant track. All in all, this album is a must have, if only for the classic title track.
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