Most of us are used to words. Then you get about a 40-minute instrumental record and we’re not classical folk, nor are we always that classy. So we are painstakingly unsure as of what to do.
Enter Russian Circles. As a three piece instrumental band from Chicago, there are a lot of genres covered here. Though it’s produced by Brandon Curtis (who did some Interpol records), 2008’s Geneva was more alternative rock than Empros is.
Empros is the fringe to a black metal jacket. I wouldn’t rush to call them a metal band however, but this record is certainly close. As “309” starts off strongly and even a little crunchy, it’s undeniably heavy without the hardcore connotation. The riffs of Brian Cook’s thick heavy bass easily transition you from disorientating noise at the end to the masterpiece of “Mlàdek.” Even though the beginning is the high tones and poppy drum beats of Dave Turncrantz, once Mike Sullivan slides his guitar pick you enter an entirely different side of the song. It transitions to a heavy chug that pulls like early metal.
The mostly abstract and atmospheric “Schipol” leaves you wondering so much. With no lyrics, we are forced as listeners to invite images into our heads. Sometimes they are useless ambient images, other times not so much. But close your eyes and listen to this song- What do you feel? What do you see? I perfectly see the cover of the record: its sound produces an image in your brain of traveling through the woods and staring at the sun. It’s a truly beautiful six minute piece that sounds similar to Deafheaven (who they are not surprisingly touring with this fall).
“Atackla” is so powerful it could be a closing credits song to a movie that just ended in tragedy. The last two songs, “Batu” and “Praise Be Man” are uniquely different without disturbing the flow of the record. Dark sneaky electric guitars, crazy tempo changes and an ample amount of guitar effects has Russian Circles spinning you faster than figure eights (see what I did there?).
Empros’ song arrangement flows seamlessly, but after all, it has to or it would be odd experimental crap. In the end, the contrast of sound is both distant and near. Though it almost blows your speakers, it leaves you in stability.