Russian Circles rocked Auckland’s Tuning Fork last night. The 13th Floor’s Simon Coffey and Chris Warne were on the scene to catch all the action.
Russian Circles create “multi-dimensional dramatic instrumental narratives”, as once stated on their website, also described as power-metal, post-rock and even Instru-metal! In 2011 one local reviewer, full of exuberance, described them in advance of their first shows in Aotearoa: “Think of our own Jakob or Kerretta only with more extreme musical influences from the likes of punishing experimentalists Swans or recently reformed metal pioneers Godflesh”
From Chicago, formed in 2004 by friends Mike Sullivan (guitars) and Dave Turncrantz (percussion), and reformed in 2007 by the addition of Brian Cook (bass) after their original bassist left. Tonight Russian Circles had an impressive 20 years of experience and eight studio albums to draw down on, as these guys show once again that you don’t necessarily need a vocalist to create remarkable music.
This Melbourne based four piece, half of which are originally from Aotearoa (Nelson and Christchurch), exist in the post-rock genre, though they have labelled themselves specifically (or is that explicitly) as ‘cinematic post-rock’ The band are currently celebrating the remaster and re-release of their debut album Arka Morgana on Bird’s Robe Records
.Myriad Drone start with an emphatic yet gentle introduction, almost classical on guitar, and develops into an orchestral structured performance. Their use of a backing track for harmonics and voice samples is unexpected. But not as unexpected as the two vocalist vocal styles, highly minimalist and bordering on Tibetan throat singing.
Their drummer Haley Decruze (sic) is a stand-out with her precise timing and measured use of toms, as Myriad Drone in their evident enthusiasm at times, lurched between aggressive/loudness and minimal/technical in a contrasting set. Their material mainly featured from the debut, though they did present Forlorn Hope from a bandied forthcoming second album.
If a comparison could be made, as I sometimes do, I could hear elements of the influential UK band Porcupine Tree comparison. This was their first time out of Australia, and from the audience response, they picked up a few fans in Tamaki Makaurau tonight.
In the modern way, the house lights are up for the interlude, but reduce as instrumental guitar fills the room which is interrupted as Russian Circles engage to audience applause and calls, and as white blue light shrouds the room complex drumming fills the room.
Over harmonics a gothic vibe almost PIL (think Flowers of Romance) like invades, the bass is a killer undertow, while the guitar slides over the top leading into a crescendo-ing wall of sound. It is mesmerising. The atmospheric manipulations lull and then are briskly interrupted, overtaken by a thrashing metal complexity of rhymes, drums and bass harmoniously in unison.
It is this anthropic relationship between drums and bass that consistently creates space for Mike Sullivan’s guitar to create and supplement with harmonics as he manipulates and stretches overlapping.
Once again mid-song the guitar swings back to dulling harmonics throughout Brian Cook’s bass and Dave Turncrantz’s drums to come to the forefront, and then it swaps back as the three maestros come together once again creating another wall of melodic energy that eventuates in an orchestral termination.
Throughout their set there are no vocal interactions with the audience, the three are unconsciously focused on their machination. It’s the within-song lulls and soundscapes between songs that communicate and maintain crucial energy and connection between purveyor and receivers, creating anticipation of what is to commingle next.
There is just enough metal, just enough throbbing gristle to satisfy the crossfading in and out of genres so avoid fence-posting. Mid-set almost an industrial tape loop interludes introduction to a song, another element, rebalances. And then later a gentler side of the band is revealed as Gnosis, a soundscape, pushes the post-rock aspect of the band to the forefront, creating an anthemic dynamic night’s highlight.
Still nothing is said, they’ve said it all in the language of energy, light and sound waves.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Warne:
Setlist (as best can be ascertained on the night)
Ghost on High
- Harper Lewis
- Wax Chattels & Cable Ties – Whammy Backroom: February - 24 February 2024
- Holy Fuck – The Mothership: February 16, 2024 - 17 February 2024
- Totally Unicorn + Twine – Whammy/Wine Cellar: February 15, 2024 - 16 February 2024