Among the crown jewels of the Elephant 6 universe (of which there are quite a few), The Circulatory System’s eponymous debut is one of the most intriguing, and with this reissue it also proves well worth re-exploring. Along Olivia Tremor Control’s Dusk At Cubist Castle and Black Foliage, this LP completes a trifecta of layered, hallucinatory, free-associative psych-pop by Will Cullen Hart that captures precisely what’s so fascinating about the label and its orbiters in the first place. While ‘60s jangles have also been a hallmark of the label, its often the bands that seek to create large scale collage-pop curios that capture the imagination best. The album dovetails off of Black Foliage’s fascination with dreams, creating a disorienting world that shifts beneath the listener’s feet without warning, but never ceases to delight with its haunted music box house of mirrors approach. Meanwhile, the album acts as a landing pad for the entire Elephant 6 stable, containing performances by just about every member of the collective save for Bill Doss, with 21 contributors making their way onto the rolls.
One of the true tragedies of the album, though, was that its release in 2001 caught a moment in time that saw vinyl hit a valley and the album was issued only on CD, followed later by digital release. To remedy this, the band launched a Kickstarter last year and raised the means to finally get this gem onto double LP and we’re all luckier for that. It’s an album I’ve revisited from time to time, but it’s been a few years and sitting down again, it bears few scars of the time in which it was created — feeling forever like a dreamscape deluge of pop pinwheels and dark, forbidden corners of the mind suspended aloft from the hallmarks aughts pop. The album isn’t one that can be broken out into piecemeal parcels for casual digestion. It is, for all intents, the album format made manifest, and once the needle hits that first groove it’s almost impossible to escape from four sides of interlaced intrigue. It occurs to me that we may be in a period when the Elephant 6 has escaped a generation of listeners, so this release could well act as an inviting entry to a world built as dense as any fantastical realm newcomers may have encountered in pop culture. The record remains a fascinating piece to pick apart, wander around, and built imaginary maps within its walls. This year bears the fruit of that Kickstater campaign so I’d recommend nabbing one while they exist, who knows if it will slip away from grasp again.
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