Thursday, 18 April 2013

Traveling Circle - Escape From Black Cloud (album review)

Cover artwork by (my very distant relative???) Erin Klauk.
Like a white pearl formed from the grit of flaked-off beauty in an utterly black ocean of chaos, Traveling Circle have emerged from Brooklyn, New York to unleash their latest album of otherworldly psychedelia.  When I think of psychedelic music, the geographical area that is associated with it is either Haight-Ashbury or Swingin' London, not Brooklyn, New York.  But that's just where these three lads are from and far be it from me to call their particular strand of psychedelia anything but 'authentic'.  Brooklyn is not the epicenter one would expect of such mind expanding sonic waves.  Isn't Brooklyn hung up on a heavy reality trip, man?  The waves produced by Traveling Circle are more cosmically attuned to the calmly rolling Pacific Ocean than the harsh, choppy, hurricane-prone Atlantic.

Then again, on second thought ... Traveling Circle cut a Panama canal through the genre by their use of serene spider's web melodies, gently lapping spaced out tone and their penchant for whipped up frenzies of fuzz and reverb, creating a torrential downpour of noise during sideways gusting jams.

Opening track "Higher" features the most echo drenched vocal I've ever heard.  It's a creeper of a tune which situates the listener snugly inside the realm of the dreamworld.  The tone is very much set on this one, which carries through to varying degrees throughout the length of the record.  "The Candlelight Sways" features a falsetto vocal delivery that is actually reminiscent of Marvin Gaye in both tone and choice of melody.  I'm talking 'Trouble Man', 'Here, My Dear' era Marvin Gaye.  Not everybody's favorite era, to be sure, but it was during this period when the master of soul was at his vocal peak and it was an era which was punctuated by moments of absolute brilliance.  Traveling Circle takes us to this place early and often.

After tiptoeing through the delicately building birth pangs of a "Newborn Shadow" we reach the "Green Spider" and it's pure otherworldly psychedelia.  Classic stuff really, vapors blown down from The Byrds and Rolling Stones at their most lysergic to the Brian Jonestown Massacre and their associated acts to be picked up here in convincing fashion.  Of course, hearkening to days past is not the target of Traveling Circle, rather, it is to push the music ahead to a kaleidoscopic foggy future.  Well if "Green Spider" is the future, then it's got a great soundtrack.  "Closer" flows naturally from these vapors providing a fluid landscape upon which floats a stream of those gossamer melodies, always threatening to lose shape and distort monstrously on this breakthrough trip.

This band is all about feel, "Rock This Feeling" lays it all on the table, providing more a few tingles up the spine with its fuzzsaw slashes, cutting a striking image on a largely ethereal album.  "Rock This Feeling" tugs the free floating soul back down to earth by its silver tether and gives the inert body a shake just in time to witness the Canterbury prog weirdness of "Fountain of Time".  This fountain is an oasis in the desert of reality, the strange and vivid dreams of the record have now escaped into the waking world.  Most observers would call it madness and try hard to shake it off, Traveling Circle go deeper down the well on "Conduit is Closing" right the next thing.

I think, the lesson here, is one we've known all along, which is actually twofold.  One, that you can be whatever and whoever you want to be no matter where you're situated, dig?  And two, that in an internet age of instant access to an undigestibly amorphous blob of media, cross-pollination from various sources can facilitate a worldwide 'scene' rather than a local one.  In other words, if something is 'happening' in say, San Francisco, it doesn't mean that folks as far afield as Tokyo, Rome, Nairobi or even Brooklyn can't catch wind of it and conversely that one no longer need look out their own bedroom window for inspiration when there's a world at one's fingertips.

To gain a ton of insight into the album read this terrific interview the band did with It's Psychedelic Baby magazine.

Highlights include: "Fountain of Time" and "Closer"

Rating: 4/5

1). Higher (3:30)
2). The Candlelight Sways (2:55)
3). Newborn Shadow (2:57)
4). Green Spider (2:21)
5). Closer (3:28)
6). The Willow Tree Fair (4:53)
7). Rock This Feeling (3:23)
8). Fountain of Time (3:54)
9). Conduit Is Closing (3:59)
10). Tears From the Soul (3:38)
Total Run Time: 34:52

Dylan (lead vocals, guitar)
Josh (drums, percussion)
Charlie (bass guitar, backing vocals

From: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Psychedelic

Reminds me of: The Barrens, Marvin Gaye, Mondo Drag, Soft Machine, White Bone Rattle

Release Date: December 16, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Enter a looking glass world where the air feels like gelatin but cracks like crystal by every movement that is made.  Follow the cracks and swim between the spaces avoiding the sharp edges to arrive at the hinted doorway.  Enter, continue.

Better Reviews:
The Obelisk
It's Psychedelic Baby
Writing About Music

Traveling Circle official website
Traveling Circle on facebook
Traveling Circle on twitter


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