Let me start by saying that I was a little apprehensive, my love of good album artwork usually results in a great album within, and I was being tested, but I needn’t have worried as I was completely surprised and totally rewarded with a rich soundscape of an album. Elements of Sabbath, Gary Numan, Genesis, Stoned Jesus, and Pink Floyd, it’s all in there, and definitely made up for a somewhat iffy album artwork.
How is that possible you ask? Well, it is, and Circle Of Sighs certainly deliver the goods.
After initially hearing Circle Of Sighs reworking of Kraftwerk’s The Man Machine, I was expecting a full on stoner romp through all 9 tracks, with a little electro thrown in, and so was pleasantly shocked by what I was about to experience.
With its various gear changes, this album has depth, and heart, not usually found on your average stoner album. Let’s be clear, this ISN’T a stoner album, well not in the strictest sense, it falls into the gap between stoner and prog. It has that iconic stoner vibe, but it’s so much more, it’s rich and on so many levels.
It’s hard to review this album as a whole, as it is more a series of episodes, or chapters, and no two tracks are at all clones of each other. For me, the standouts are Hold Me Lucifer, Desolate, the aforementioned Kraftwerk re-working The Man Machine and the title track Salo, but this doesn’t at all take away from the rest of the album. If pushed for an answer, if I had one shot to impress a newbie to Circle Of Sighs, any one of the four I would be equally as great to impress them.
Hold Me Lucifer has a fantastic Gary Numan style intro, easily reminiscent of the goth synth overlord, in partnership with a chugging bassline that kicks in after a brief introduction, a rumbling undercurrent, travelling alongside. It’s all here, some double bass, beautiful harmonies, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon twinges, with some super cool build ups, and crescendos, which erupt into an interesting electro meets stoner mash up, with some fantastic driving bass for good measure.
Desolate had me reminiscing back to my childhood, and car journeys, a time of Genesis, not eighties Genesis, but nineteen seventies Peter Gabriel era Genesis, my father’s influence, and it isn’t out of place in the mix. It has depth, the accompanying female vocal both enticing and judgemental, in equal measure.There are highs and lows, loud and quiet, a wonderful balance, ‘I only wish you let me in…’ is confessed, a very modern tale for sure…
This is ‘space age stoner’ in waves, with a sprinkle of prog, all thought out, inspired, and executed wonderfully…
The Man Machine knows where it’s going right from the off, which is great, because I have no clue as it begins. Gary Numan has resurfaced, and he’s brought some chunky bass with him. It’s the perfect mash up of both elements, in the best way, it’s electronic, and its stoner, but it’s not unlistenable, or awkward, actually quite the opposite.
Salo is the closing track for the whole album, it’s been a ride, and it isn’t over yet. A time for nu wave, and electronic is on the horizon, the nudge to Visage and Fade To Grey, but it’s a welcome addition. This is ‘space age stoner’ in waves, with a sprinkle of prog, all thought out, inspired, and executed wonderfully.
To describe the sound of Circle Of Sighs as somewhere between stoner, prog, and electronic wouldn’t even do justice to this slab of retro goodness. There are trippy vocals, chugging bass, blast beats, acoustic moments, sci-fi interludes. It’s in no way inaudible, it’s a fantastic accompaniment to late nights, low lights, and good red wine.
This album could be ten years old, it could be thirty, hell, it could even be fifty, with elements from all of those different time periods, excellently spliced together, and I can see this being on constant rotation in the playlists for the foreseeable future.
A curveball of an album, for anyone willing to look for something a little different.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish