Personnel: Susan Voelz (violin); Alison Chesley (cello); Greg Norman (trumpet, trombone); Brandon Curtis (piano).
Recording information: Electrical Audio, Chicago, IL (05/2009).
Photographer: Chris Strong.
The relationship between the calm before the storm and the storm itself is a crucial element of post-rock. The patience and restraint to allow the music to build slowly and organically is an incredible virtue within the genre, and it's a virtue that Russian Circles have been growing into over the course of their career. On GENEVA, their third full-length outing, we find a band that has matured as songwriters. With a larger, more atmospheric set of tools at their disposal, the band crafts songs that are more about buildup than release. Instead of down the usual "build, build, build, destroy" route that's so common, the songs grow organically, with changes unfolding so naturally that the big finish is more of a logical conclusion than an explosion. Brian Cook's (of Botch and These Arms Are Snakes) impact on this record is more apparent than it was on STATION. His gritty, fuzzed-out bass provides a dynamic contrast to the lighter moments, providing a bit of sonic dirt for the more ethereal guitar parts to play in. This influence might also have something to do with Russian Circles' further tempering of their metal tendencies. While GENEVA has its heavier moments (like "Fathom" and "Geneva"), they're not as out-and-out metal as their past work, more reminiscent of Pelican's later work or the sludgy harmony of Zozobra. Given their past work, it would be easy for Russian Circles to simply play it quiet for a while and then absolutely bowl over the listener with huge, metal riffing. As the record goes on, that patience and restraint reveals itself more and more. On the sprawling, eight-minute epic, "When the Mountain Comes to Muhammad," the band allows the song to build slowly and easily, reigning the song in and allowing it to fold in on itself, growing slightly larger and larger without ever getting completely out of control. GENEVA is an album that builds like an old building being demolished, starting out with an explosion and ending with the dust clearing to reveal a changed landscape that's ready for something new. If you weren't already on the Russian Circles bandwagon, this is the perfect opportunity to jump on.
Alternative Press (p.114) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he sweetly syncopated `Malko' sounds like a darker version of Minus The Bear."
Paste (magazine) - "Russian Circles effectively pared down its sound to two basic elements: thunderous riffs and tight rhythms."