The term ‘post-rock’ is an enduring and undeniably overused term that roughly and somewhat harshly pigeonholes an act into appearing as part of nothing more than a trend. And, while some of the atrocious acts that exist are nothing more than a trend, this is particularly untrue for Russian Circles, who have been unfairly saddled with the post-rock tag.
Despite the fact that their clear influences lie in the ultimately more heavy direction, they still retain elements of other, more fledgling styles that don’t really have any crossover appeal but somehow work in the context of the band’s third LP, Geneva. While their debut showed great promise, and their instrumentation and melody were very much their own, they still couldn’t help but slip into what seemed to be their comfort zones; mostly balls-out rock, technical noodling, or both. It was a different scenario on their second record, Station. Although they still preserved the heavy, twiddling moments that were, admittedly, pretty great – there was something in the musicianship that shone for me – something that broke past and sometimes gave me the shivers. I think it was at that moment that Russian Circles unsettled me a little bit, and hopefully made critics as well as me think twice about the post-rock badge.
Geneva is a logical and, at often times, beautiful addition to their sound. Taking the fundamentals that Station displayed and building around it a wash of ethereal textures was a great idea; the unnecessary musical wankery that instrumental bands are in danger of belting out without justifying isn’t present, and gone is the fear that it could be around the corner. Brian Cook’s bass is a clear stand-out on this, and he steals the show on several occasions, cutting through with his fuzzed-out tones. Dave Turncrantz’s propensity to perform complex fills to accent his beats is what he is well-known for, and he shows remarkable restraint compared to their earlier work, preferring to add to the density of the composition rather than cloud it completely. There was an indication on the last album of the softer touch the band possesses, and this is evident in spades from the moment the discordant strings carry the tribal beats and guitar line on ‘Fathom’ and the gentle, almost orchestral movements in ‘Hexed All’.
This album doesn’t sound like Russian Circles. Or, at least the band we knew before. This is the sound of a band maturing and a band renewed, and although ‘epic’ is a throwaway word these days, I mean it – this is a truly epic record.
My rating? 8 out of 10.
Geneva is out now on Suicide Squeeze Records.