Circles Around The Sun


Since the day is starting off in a prog mood, I figure why not embrace the ideal. The latest album from West Coast Dead-adjacent coalition Circles Around the Sun has arrived and it finds the band digging deeper into their formula of fusion. While the band might be most notable as an offshoot of Grateful Shred, that origin has long since been secondary to the sound of Circles. On Language, the crew digs further into a firmament of ‘70s prog, with dips into Yes, Soft Machine, and in particular Meddle-era Pink Floyd. The keys of Adam McDougal have become a hallmark of the band. Long a studio head who’s been included on works from The Black Crowes to Macy Gray, his sound lately has begun to lodge nicely into the exploratory grottoes of the ‘70s prog/psych canon. His sound immediately colors works with a kind of liquid light that’s familiar yet fascinating. With Howlin’ Rain he helped shape The Dharma Wheel into a towering tempest of classic psych, and his work on Eric Silverman’s “All In My Head,” has yielded one of the year’s best singles.

With guitarist John Lee Shannon, McDougall leans into the mercury-slick laser light licks. The album feels practically built for heads, but it still retains a good measure of the slippery funk that’s been a hallmark of CATS’s catalog. “Outer Boroughs” and “Away Team” slip away from the submersible, aqueous surroundings of the first couple of cuts, and towards a velour and Vicodin heartbeat that’s packed with city heat. The record ends with the title track, a collaboration with local Catskills fave Mikaela Davis, who’s on her way to her own year-ender with her band Southern Star. Here, she adds her harp to the elegiac “Language,” a glycerine end-cap on the album’s journey. The band continues to tend the topiaries carved and curated by Medeski Martin and Wood and Herbie Hancock, consummate fusionists as always, while eyeing every expansive angle cropped from the ‘70s kaleidoscope. As always, there’s a feeling that the record is just a framework for what the live show will become, but its nice to get a sense of the setting before they soar.

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