Takes the Square
As the Roots Undo CD
|As The Roots Undo opens with a shout
of truth: "Rejoice, rejoice, a noble birth!" This trio from Savannah, Georgia,
makes torrid, complex scream-ola on this astounding full-length debut, charging
its Napalm Death-style time swerves and Fugazi-like guitar meat with a rare,
heated male-female vocal attack that puts the X in emo.
-- David Fricke / Rolling Stone --
Heavy music listeners have been waiting a long time for something like Circle Takes the Square to come along.
This Savannah, Ga., collective will give you a glass of warm milk and put you to bed before crashing through the bedroom door weilding a hockey mask and butcher knife to scare the jeepers out of you. On its debut longplayer, “As the Roots Undo,” the band spins to and fro in a teeth-gritting plummet through man’s distressing pursuit of self-actualization.
The music is embrangled, cold-sweating rock fronted by dueling male/female vocals of which is some of the most anguished in recent memory. Just as often, though, CTTS spaces out with pensive textures, as on the first half of the mellfluous and mysterious “Non Objective Portrait of Karma” and the repetitive, hypnotic beats sprinkled thoughout “Interview at the Ruins.” Monk chants make an appearance to add extra twists in this bipolar storm.
What it amounts to is a sound that may be too complicated and convulted to easy listeners and those who prefer to make no effort when partaking in music, but can not be accused of being boring. Circle Takes the Square makes music that’s not meant to be a cheap thrill, but a difficult, and ultimately rewarding, journey.
-- Wade Coggeshall / The Indiana Journal Review --
Ahhh … the infamous “screamo” genre! In recent years this genre has become saturated with talent-less kids who believe that all you need are blast beats and sloppy melodic guitars. Unfortunately, those individuals do not capture any dynamic that bands like Circle Takes the Square and company capture (obviously since they are signed to one of the best record labels around in the indie scene).Compared to their previous works CTTS hasn’t necessarily progressed into a different sound, but definitely developed their song writing capabilities. They catch me off guard with little instances of goodness between the blast beats and screeching, it feels so good! That not to say the brutal parts are not great (or unnecessary) but I am more interested into the creativity portion of this record. For all of your CTTS fans out their who haven’t bought this record, it’s going to make you orgasm within the first couple of minutes … yet for all of your skeptics of the genre, just listen to “Interview at the Ruins” and be amazed on a damn cleverly written song.I guess you could say CTTS hasn’t grown incredibly, but if you listen close you will be quite happy to hear some amazing new technique’s these guys use to spice up the stagnant genre we call screamo.
-- Drew / Ink Drinker --
Aside from amazing packaging and sketches that would make Edward Gorey proud, As the Roots Undo demonstrates a full-frontal creative assault with prongs from the hardcore in "Crowquill", hysteria in "Interview at the Ruins" and even a quiet guitar dreamscape interlude with "Kill the Switch." Regardless of what genre they slip into, Circle is able to master their situation and dig their niche before moving on to the next impossible task. Their ability to fluctuate within all moods is their strongest attribute as a band, and with this debut album, I'm sure they'll be venturing further outside their Savannah, GA hometown to undo their own roots.
-- Caustic Truth --
Wow. Not only does this CD have some first rate packaging, the music is an absolute tornado of sound and emotion. If you dig down to the roots of CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE you have very angry, dual vox, punk rock fury. Maybe something like BLATZ. But, admittedly, the roots are barely visible here. Complex layers flesh this out immensely. For example, you can't ignore the plentiful screemo here. Or the AmRep influenced noise. Or the experimental holocaust of hardcore ala RUINS or even MELT BANANA. In the end CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE is a densely textured yet very harsh adventure in hardcore. You'll have to have an open mind to appreciate it, but you also better enjoy a high quota of chaos.
-- Jeb Branin / In Music We Trust --
Hmmm. parts of this are excellent, and parts of it really rub me the wrong way. The songwriting is really intricate and there are a ton of riffs and styles going on, ranging from grinding hardcore/punk to melodic metal, clean breaks, discordant and chaotic runs, noisy electronic textures, layered male/female vocals with screaming, singing, spoken passages, etc. What I don't like are some of the more grating "screamo" sort of aspects. Thankfully they tend to stray from that angle, and the lyrics aren't in that vein at all, but it's still enough of a factor to bother me in some cases. I think a lot of it stems from the vocals, really. The noisier guitar textures and jarring riffs are tastefully handled and make sense, it's not messy, but a lot of the vocal layering and scathing, shrieking screams get old at times. The constant fluctuation of riffs and atmospheres helps spread things out, but I definitely like all of the female vocals way more than the male vocals. I like the songwriting for the most part - especially considering they're able to pull off songs as long as nine minutes. The drumming is really tight, and I wish the guitars were that closely knit, but they're almost there. A few of the more complex riffs have some rough spots in the performances, but this is a curious situation where things are really involved and thought out, but not necessarily intended to be ultra precise. "Interview at the Ruins" has an insanely awesome intro that builds in with thick percussion, dark clean guitars, and the sounds of chains dragging around. The rest of the track is also more moderately paced and melodic, with lots of tasteful background sounds as well as some piano, leading into the equally epic "Non-Objective Portrait of Karma", starting out softly with some volume swells and ambient tones, and a few minutes later exploding into a faster and much more frantic, energetic burst. There are definitely a vast array of dynamics at work here. The recording isn't bad. The clean and acoustic guitars (when present) sound really nice, fairly dry but still with a good tone. The bass sounds good even though it sometimes falls by the wayside, the distorted guitars are dirty enough to have a bite without sacrificing clarity or heaviness, and the drums sound very resonant and thick, which is always a plus. I might like to hear some of the vocals mixed closer to the music, but you get used to it. The CD comes in an insane full color digipack that folds shut with a tab/slot in the back and opens up to reveal a booklet secured to the first panel - including handwritten lyrics/notes and additional artwork. I've never seen anything quite like it before, and I bet it cost a fucking ton of dough! The lyrics are quite lengthy, and I enjoy the approach: "There's so much hope buried underneath tragedy. It's the same shade as concrete. The faithful say it's beautiful, it's god's will, let the flood swell on the loudspeaker sermons and a parish descending. There's so much hope buried underneath tragedy. It's the same shade as concrete. Let the flood swell." I will say that even though there are aspects of this release that I dislike, I can definitely understand why I've heard so much about this band based on hearing this material. The strengths far outweigh the weaknesses, and with a slightly cleaner performance and the general growth that bands go through over the years, I imagine these folks will unleash a truly powerful piece of work in the years to come. Keep your eyes peeled.
From the liner notes:
In a nutshell the concept behind the songs was to document the different points on a path to self-realization. In our interpretation of this journey, the wanderer ends up essentially in the same place that he or she began, if not humbled and even more overwhelmed. In a sense the ending is somewhat tragic, but without experiencing all of the lows how can anyone ever appreciate the amazing subtleties that this world has to offer? And so, if the search for beauty and understanding is cyclical and unending, then at least we'll never stop experiencing the thrill of the hunt...
Whoa. Sounds like someone's senior philosophy seminar gone awry with the assistance of some very pure acid.
The trio that is Circle Takes the Square is not for the faint of heart. This album contains no sense of humor. If you're the type of listener that can't stomach the drama of a Beethoven concerto, CTTS may not be for you. Phrases like "concrete rapture" and "sedated mythology," and words like "infinite" and "pensive" pepper each track's canonical lyrics. There are times, while listening, that I feel like I'm watching Iron Maiden perform. Seldom in this day and age do we see someone who takes their craft as seriously as CTTS does on As the Roots Undo.
The album starts with a plaintive whistle in a rain shower, and then abrubtly pounds into "Same Shade as Concrete." Wait...you didn't get the idea that this was some sort of organized indie or something, did you? Oh no. This is screamo, crazy fucking screamo. The differences between this and the other screamo bands out there are many, though. It's obvious that each seemingly disorganized, dissonant chord combination and deconstructed, disheveled drumbeat are firmly and artfully orchestrated by the band. It's the most organized chaos I've ever heard. One never knows what's coming next, there is no linear pattern to the songs. It can be quite startling, and there's no doubt in my mind that CTTS wants it to be.
So anyway, "Same Shade as Concrete" thunders into the whistling with declarations of the beginning of the cycle. Drew's (vocals/guitar) shredded holler mixes with Kathy's (bass/vocals) heedless shout, "Rejoice, rejoice: a noble birth, a prince is born." Ah ha. The song meanders violently through caustic drums and throat-blistering recital of complexities until it abruptly stops on a poignant, clean-tone melody. Drew repeats quietly with Kathy chiming in prettily in the background, "Wade in the water child." Suddenly, Drew kicks the petal on his melody and starts to mutter "Let the flood swell." It builds, and builds, into a gorgeous assault of everything this three-piece can hit, strum, and scream, double bass drums prattling a tense undercurrent. Then it ends. So much for the beginning of the cycle.
The album continues with "Crowquill," which is one of the uglier tracks. Drew's vocals are especially gravelly, and the beat is much more persistent. The lyrics continue to be completely intelligible and overwhelmingly complicated. No verses, no chorus, just an oddyssey of philosophy. Pretty hefty stuff. Then comes the album's true turning point, and what appears to historically be the band's shining diamond. "The Nervous Light of Sunday" first showed on their demo and may have been the beginning of this entire concept album. Here, it's an apex. The track bleeds passion, twisting like an angry cat, shouting the most poignant one-liners yet, and coming back to the mantra "That's the thread that you curse, curse constantly." "An eternal patch on a quilt that hangs from a wall in a throw frought with our decay." Getting the picture yet?
If "Nervous Light of Sunday" is the top of the mountain, then it should be all downhill from there, right? Wrong. This album's release was delayed for about 6 months, and I've spent enough time with it to understand that the second part of the cycle is where CTTS really starts to rip. Musically, they begin to do and conceive of things that I've never heard before. Sometimes I think I'm listening to Spinal Tap. It's so complete in it's resolve that it seems comical. But it's that kind of music that makes you want to grow your hair out, put on a tour shirt, grab a lighter and go to a show to bang your head. "Interview at the Ruins" starts with a grinding noise of mortar and pestle, and after a short intro plods straight into a Sabbath style power chord riff. After a typical wild ride, it ends with a Druidic chant of the album's title, "A murmur from the ruins echoes softly as the roots undo, and the branch becomes." "A Non-Objective Portrait of Karma" comes next, and though I'm sure if fits perfectly into the album's thesis, it would be a bit of a disappointment if it weren't for the song's opening 6 minutes (heh, it clocks in at just under 7 minutes). Slight guitar volume effects and slow cymbals give way to a sorrowful, beautiful guitar. It builds like City of Caterpillar, for almost four minutes before reaching a feverish and truly incredible minute or two of absolute thrash metal. But it somehow manages to end with a choir singing monkishly in the background. As rapt as I am whenever I get to this point in the album, the theatrics of this are a little too thick for me.
As long as this review is getting, I had to save a lot of breath for "Kill the Switch." If "Nervous Light of Sunday" is the apex, this is the climax. The beginning is absolutely thunderous. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Jay is one of the best drummers I have ever heard. His beats drive so powerfully and skillfully that there's no possibility that any song can fall apart, even with the tenuous thread that connects each segment. The first minute is more amazingly good thrash-like screamcore. Then, a short, gorgeously ambient interlude drenched with light from rose windows and stares from marble scultpures, which is ripped into confetti by their instruments. Another minute later (this track is nine and a half minutes), it slows to a lull again, Drew murmering, "Life is lowly anonymity, in death a noble pose, a Marat David. Tell me who wouldn't give their lives for such a soapbox to die behind. Life is lowly, lowly anonymity. In the space of a smile I found sleep." Another build ensues, increasingly quick with drums, intense with lyrics, until Drew kicks it again and they both begin to scream over a straight 4/4 beat. Then another chaotic, seemingly disorganized segment, centered around the shout of "Somewhere out there there's a thrill I swear!" This song, unlike most of the others, shows a circularity that is a microcosm of the whole album. Lyrical stanzas are repeated, riffs are returned to. Suddenly, brilliantly, one of these returns is given an undeniable double-bass drum undercurrent as they scream "I KNOW IT'S ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN!"
"Kill the Switch" alone is an epic journey. The album's last track, "A Crater to Cough In," is almost an eight minute afterthought, coming back to the plaintive whistle that started everything out, except this time it's played on Drew's guitar. I must admit that I rarely make it through this track, being so exhausted from the manic frenzy that is "Kill the Switch," but I'm sure it brings everything back to where it began. After all, CTTS's understanding of this "hunt" is that it's "cyclical and unending." My understanding of As the Roots Undo is that it's never been done before, and I'm not sure that it'll ever be done on this scale again.
-- Deep Fry Bonanza --
Talk about thinking outside of the box. Circle Takes the Square defines music that isn't afraid to take a chance on something that may or may not work. Any band who starts off their album with whistling is a band that shows no fear when it comes to musical intrigue.
I'm going to show no fear and call these guys the hardcore version of Black Eyes. The bands are similar in the way they look at musical composition, though their sounds are very different.
It is only natural for some people to not be into this band. Though this an occurance with every band, it is moreso for them because of their songwriting skills. They have a male and female vocalist who both have gut wrenching screams. They also use a good amount of talking to build up tension. And, this being a hardcore styled band, there is a good amount of screaming.
If you're in the mood to try out something different, this is the band. I can just imagine what future albums are going to sound like.
-- theplaylist.net --
For those of you unfamiliar with the Robotic Empire line-up, get out from under your rock because they it’s the best hardcore has to offer today. Featuring releases from Pg99, The Red Chord, Daughters, Mannequin, Pig Destroyer, The Now, you know Robotic Empire is serious business. The debut full-length from Circle Takes The Square is another terrific release to add to their growing list.
After a 55 second whistling intro, “Same Shade as Concrete” opens As the Roots Undo with a frantic battle cry, “Rejoice, rejoice a noble birth!” The frantic drumming and guitars kick in and the insanity ensues. It has been a long, long time since I have heard any band able to combine schizophrenic chaos with melody as well as CTTS does.
One of the best things CTTS has going for them is their ability to write long, ambitious hardcore ballads that never get boring. Each song combines frenzied chaotic bursts with epic build ups, melodic runs and a chorus of overlapping, painful vocals. When I say a chorus, think something along the lines of a torture chamber... and the man with the whip is very angry. If you are into growls or hardcore cackling this wont be for you. This is straight up yelling, screaming, hollering, yelping, and even some clean vocals here and there. It’s amazing that there is only three members in the band.
“Same Shade as Concrete” features some of these “clean” vocals that sound a little bit like Conner Oberst - if he killed people instead of crying for them - along with some awesome female backup singing. “Non-Objective Portrait of Karma” commences with an atmospheric guitar intro of nearly four minutes before the ADD enhanced drums blast away as the highly melodic guitars strum their way to oblivion.
The production on this album is remarkable considering the layers of vocals coupled with all the muddled textures going on within the songs. Everything has a distinct sound and stays clear throughout. Don’t let the clarity fool you, there is plenty of raw sounds to let their intensity shine through.
Seriously though, if you are unfamiliar with Robotic Empire you definitely need to check them out. Release after release they never disappoint; As the Roots Undo is no exception. I’m already pumped to see what CTTS can do in the future.
-- Nailed Shut --
Forget The Used and the rest of the emo-lite brigade - this twisting, scowling, blackhearted slice of malevolence from Georgia's Circle Takes The Square is what post-hardcore's all about. An uncategorisable blend of the swirling etherealness of Cave In, the poisoned shrieking of Cradle Of Filth and The Mars Volta's complete disregard for song structure, 'As The Roots Undo' is a breathtaking body of work. On pure aggression CTTS are fantastic - when you add in the chilling male/female vocals and the haunting prchestral chords (think Vangelis' 'Blade Runner' soundtrack) they're nothing short of awe-inspiring. BEST TRACKS: 'Interview At The Ruins', 'Crowquill'.
-- Kerrang! --
One of Robotic Empire's greatest acquirings in a while, Savannah, Georgia's Circle Takes The Square destroys all the boundaries and all of the things you thought you knew about music. It's a record that can take the breath right from your chest and leave you not knowing what to say. It's cacophonic, but it's soothing. It's left but it's right. There's no solid definition that could encapsulate this record. As The Roots Undo is as dynamic as it gets.
-- dieatzero.com --
As an album reviewer, you get very little time to actually sit and enjoy an album because you want to. You always have to move on to the next batch of CDs and even if you thoroughly enjoy an album, it's often soon washed away by the next group of reviews, good or bad. Gone are the days of repeated continual day long listens of say Left Hand Path or A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria that I used to enjoy before I got into this writing gig.
However, an album has come to my attention, that has me forsaking all other albums due for review, an album so compelling, innovative and draining, that even forthcoming albums by Finntroll and Dismember will be hard pressed to push it out of my CD player, despite their no doubt brilliance.
As the Roots Undo takes the current melodic screamo/hardcore trend and turns it on its head with a bitter dual female/male vocal attack (both clean and spit forth venomously), seething black metal blastbeats, indie rock karma and dreamy interludes of brooding introspection. The genre shattering end result plays like Thursday and Shai Hulud watching Karen Crisis and Candace Kucsulain from Walls of Jericho violate each other with obscene sex toys in a deviant torture dungeon run by Darkthrone (or is that the dream I had last night?). Either way their scathing Uphill Battle -esque take on hardcore, is both a barren and beautiful sonic diatribe that alternates from shuddering raptures of pain and anger to swathes of subconscious reflection via acoustics and instrumental interludes.
Where do I start? This is an album that demands to be listened to from beginning to end, As the Roots Undo just unfolds brilliance at every turn. Each song is an exhaustive listen as CTTS are capable of shifting from beautiful harmonies to acidic hatred and sobering introspection, normally all within one song, making detailed listening an absolute requirement. "Same Shade as Concrete", fits more moods into its four minutes than a PMS stricken female serial killer. Although some may find CTTS's chaotic delivery off-putting, I found each caustic scream and riff to be ripe with undulating melodies that only surface with focused listening, much like Shai Hulud. But unlike Shai Hulud, the bitter edge is neither uplifting or soaring, but vehement and strained with psychosis. "In the Nervous Light of Sunday", highlights the unusual female/male vocal delivery as Drew reaches almost Dani Filth like peaks, and his female counterpart wails with indignant feminine rage or soothes with angelic fury. "Interview at the Ruins", both pummels and caresses, before revealing CTTS's softer side with a stunning piano laced, chanted close out, that's thick with sadness, truly moving without being overly whiny or emo. The last three songs on the album though are truly magnificent, with Neurosis like ambience ebbs to start "Non Objective Point of Karma", CTTS display their unpredictable personality that explodes half way in with a devastating black metal burst with a throbbing bass line reminding me of Ulver's Nattens Madrigal. As if a polar opposite of the prior track, the nine minute "Kill the Switch" starts in a suffocating fashion, before introducing the now purely heavenly moments of brooding quiet. The sublime closer "Crater to Cough In" follows the same peaceful/turbulent formula as "No Objective Point of Karma", building to a peak of claustrophobic intensity and emotion.
Lyrically CTTS, while certainly utilizing the cryptic song titles of their metalcore peers, are on Shai Hulud -ish levels of their own lyrically: "Rejoice, A noble birth, a prince is born, behold the birth of violence, beasts of bird and feather cry for our concrete rapture. And if we beg to be put down, unto us the most inspired storm. A princess ravaged by her Prince: behold the birth of sex and distance. Two frail corpses where they, his eyes were the first to stray" ("Same Shade as Concrete"). And while conveying these poetic sonnets, Drew's clean voice gets a little too whiny here and there, his (and her) screeches are poisonous and spiteful, more than making up for the emo edge that may put off some metal purists.
Production wise, rather than the lush resonant earth tones of typical metal core, CTTS sounds are stark and primitive, with the pulsing controlled bass providing the girth over the flimsy drums and raw guitar tone, but when taken as part of the whole, the unusually barren sound works to convey CTTS's unique sound.
I normally try to be level headed in my reviews, and try to refrain from gushing too much over an album I wont be listening to in 3 weeks, but in the case of CTTS, I'm not hesitant to throw around words like 'classic' and 'masterpiece', each listen is a experience in itself. My only concern is the 'emo' tag that comes with the band putting off metalheads cautious of the term and its musical saturation. Fear not though wary reader, any listener brave enough to shed labeling and genres will appreciate the sheer brilliance of this album.
-- Erik Thomas / metalreview.com --
In the words of my esteemed ex-colleague Troy Steele: “I had a self imposed rule when I started writing reviews: no perfect scores.” To me, the perfect score has always been the most sacred of sacreds, something that you could never touch, not even with a really long stick. If you call something perfect, what if something comes along that’s just a little bit better? For this reason, I would always leave that perfect rating alone, just in case. My odd paranoias notwithstanding, I was recently confronted with a situation which challenged my no-perfect-scores standard. What if an album is better than a 9, what choice does the leave me?! I reached for the ten, but at the last second backed away, I knew it wasn’t the time for it. Yet.
Now, I’m not the biggest fan of hardcore. To me, the entire genre is like a big bowl of Corn Flakes. Somewhat tasty and satisfying, but not something I’d want to eat too much of. Of course, even something as bland as Corn Flakes can be spiced up, with bananas and sugar and berries and such. Breaking loose of the standard scream and thrash method is Circle Takes the Square, with their brilliant release, As the Roots Undo, one of the most innovative and interesting hardcore albums since The Shape of Punk to Come.
This is the first release by the band, and it is simply staggering. It’s hard to make these kind of statements without coming off sounding like a drooling fanboy, but this album is spectacular times three. Each piece fits perfectly into the mix, creating ornate compositions which can be both smoothly serene and brutally vicious.
As the Roots Undo opens with a single melody, whistled repeatedly like a sound floating over a long silent void. This melody is the theme of the album, coming back time after time, both in the vocal arrangements and music. It is a lonely, sad sound, repeated slowly and carefully. The albums closing track “A Crater to Cough In”, begins with this melody once again, as it creeps slowly forward over a four minute intro, winding up an endless spiral staircase with determined tenacity. Then, out of nowhere, it breaks free, growing to a ferocious volume and speeding to a breakneck pace, whipped through the air like a sheet of looseleaf in a tornado. I’m not one for hyperbole, but this is the musical equivalent of Jesus returning to Earth and baking you a five layer chocolate cake.
The album is an epic, with fast, tight transitions, screamed vocals and cleanly sung interludes. The juxtaposition between the male and female lead vocals only adds to the madness they are able to swirl up. Long, carefully built up intros and breaks stretch out a feeling of tension in between the frenzied barnstormers. Also, there are scores of things which you won’t be finding on your run of the mill hardcore album, for one, the choral arrangement on “Non-Objective Portrait of Karma”, which comes out of nowhere and sounds absolutely sublime.
As the Roots Undo, approaches perfection, but it just doesn’t make it all the way there. Who knows what could be released in the next few weeks, or months, or years, which might put this album to shame. Imagine then, what would happen to my credibility if I gave this album a perfect score. I’m not taking that chance.
-- Jesse Cataldo / Cloak and Dagger --
Close your eyes to experience their sterile intro, but be prepared for the desperation that follows... I know I describe some bands as desperate, but that was until I got to know Circle Takes The Square. This record is one of the most intense and emotional records I’ve ever heard and breaths desperation and so much more. Because of the multiple vocal attack, varying from singing, screaming and talking by both a guy and a girl, everything sounds so intense. Musically this isn’t boring as well, punk, hardcore, screamo, and more rocky elements are combined, but that isn’t all. Number 6 is one of the best songs I heard recently, after a long soundscape intro the driven guitars and intense vocals took my breath away. Curious? Check the song here. This CD is as hard to get into, as it is catchy. All vocal lines stick in my head for days, but still I discover new elements within their songs every time I listen to the album. The funny thing is, that the screams of the singer remind me of the way Danni from Cradle Of Filth used to sing on their earlier records, but still it perfectly fits the multi-rhythmic sound of Circle Takes The Square.
All in all this probably will be the best album in 2004, if it isn’t because of the music, it definitely is because of the artwork. This looks great and the special digi-pack design is brilliant!
-- Tjeerd / codex4.org --
This shit is just straight manic! Well executed Hardcore that feeds off everything from Goth to Power-Metal to Grindcore is the element here. It seems that every member of the band [including a lady] shares in the vocal duties, which while creating dynamic madness, it keeps the band from having that certain kind of identity that a lead vocalist can bring to the table. Putting that aside, CTTS kicks major ass from a musician/Hardcore fans standpoint. This crew delivers the goods from musicianship to originality to production. Their song-writing could use a little help, but hey, they're young! I See big things for this band!
-- Jeff Thies / Chord --
After being delayed for almost 6 months, this has been on the top of my list for purchasing once it did hit the streets. Hearing many great things about them from the internet and word of mouth it peaked my interest and inspired me to mail order their demo. Unfortunately it left something to be desired but the most important ingredient was present, passion.
Now this three piece from the East Coast is ready to get your attention in a way that will impress you. First off, this packaging is absolutely exquisite and should warrant a good review for that alone. Full color, multiple folds and textures that make you wonder how they even create a package like this. Musically speaking, this runs over you like a mack truck with blistering vocals, frantic guitar parts and the heaviest recording I have heard come out for a three piece. Comparing this to many of the other “screamo” bands on the market right now really won’t do it justice but I will say this, this is our generations hope at a revival. Adding such elements as a female vocalist, electronic samples and atmospheric parts that remind me of Mogwai on a bad day, Circle Takes The Square have created a early contender for record of the year.
This is important on so many levels from the way that they present themselves, to the way they create their music but overall it musically outshines a large portion of what has been released over the past few years. Words really can’t justify the validity of this record.
-- Ray Harkins / punkrocks.net --
Okay, so Circle Takes The Square may not be the best band name. In fact, it's pretty dumb. It also gives no clue as to what an intense and amazing record As The Roots Undo is. But as with monikers like the "Flaming Lips", or even the "Beatles", the name will grow on you, which is good, because you're gonna be telling everyone you know about this record. Trust us! From the cover, a gorgeous gold and silver metallic digipak that folds together IPR style, to the music, a bizarre hybrid of old school crusty hardcore complete with shouted boy/girl vocals, modern metalcore, indie/post rock, seriously complex and innovative prog, and even some weird ambient electronic bits, you won't know what hit you. Sounds like it could be a mess, but somehow it all falls together perfectly. Emotional and intense, alternately heavy and intense, melodic and melancholy. Massive Neurosis-style riffery gives way to weird clean guitar breakdowns, spoken word parts and blooping electronic programming. Buzzing grindcore splinters into jangly, rhythmic almost-pop. Definitely schizophrenic. But in a good way. The core of the record is a thrashy, complex grind metal, but the vocals are so distinctive and emotional and the arrangements are so creative that it turns what could have been a run of the mill punk rock record into one of our favorite new records, period.
-- Aquarius Records --
It seems that the emo genre has become complacent in the past few years, inundating the scene with a steady tide of indistinguishable ensembles that generally lack the energy to even try and sound different from their peers. Savannah, Georgia's own Circle Takes The Square have proven to be the oddity amongst all of these tears and jaded emotions, as their screamo aesthetic reaches far beyond the expected hardcore/emo boundaries and has captured a vibrant dose of artistic credibility necessary to survive. Though they have birthed a handful of well-received but criminally unavailable releases (most notably a split 7" with fellow screamo group pg.99), nothing has quite punctuated the group's kinetic energy like their adventurous debut full-length, "As The Roots Undo".
Circle Takes The Square have the ability to erase one's preconceptions towards modern day screamo, as their elaborate song structures and dynamic male/female vocal blending challenge the formula, leaving little room for shoe-gazing. Supplying the listener with atmospheric ambiance in the vein of Mogwai along with raging doses of violently spastic hardcore, the group weave a web of disenchanted dreams and all too realistic nightmares. The hunger within these musicians is exposed for all to witness as they repeatedly pummel one's ears with bitterly acerbic blasts of rabid grindcore intensity, and yet these vicious slabs of barbarism fall away to panoramic soundscapes of haunting beauty. This perilous flirtation between the fragile and the chaotic is startling in its urgency, and cathartic in its intimacy.
As it stands the group carry a stigma that seems to cut the scene in half, with the scale balanced between fanatical fervor for the band's artistic vision and staunch vehemence towards the mangled explosions of sound assaulting their ears. The schizophrenic design that "As The Roots Undo" has adopted does indeed feel scattered at times, and this hectic mish-mash of ideas may be just too edgy and open-ended for all listeners to embrace. But with their unpredictable inventiveness and a flair for aural debauchery Circle Takes The Square are surely a beacon of light on a choppy sea of mediocrity, proving that there is still potential for invigorating, original acts from the emo community. It is only up to the intrepid listeners now to steer their ship in the right direction.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
-- Jason Doe / theprp.com --
Even if the actual music on the new CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE album was absolutely horrid, I think I would have to hang the digi-pack on my wall as if it were the Mona Lisa or some other work of art. Seriously, the quad-fold digi-pack is so slick I'm afraid I might drool on it just looking at the esoteric illustrations scattered inside. On top of that there is a nice lyric booklet stapled in to follow along with.
With that out of the way, this is something beyond out of the ordinary. After a few releases from Robo Empire that are merely pretty good, I would attest that CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE is the labels claim to fame, and rightly so. Normally, to pull off a chaotic style you can't just play your hearts out. There has to be some sort of grip to the songs. The band has definitely recognized this and it's evident in their cryptic songs. "As the Roots Undo," is running on all engines from beginning to end. Some may compare the band to THE LOCUST, and while I think that band accomplishes what they set out to do, CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE take the next step in technical, loud, frenzied music. The band always seems to know exactly where they want to go with the song and anticipate the listener's attention span for each successive song they write. It's obvious in the arrangement and structuring of the songs that they know how to craft a tune that emphasizes clarity over unbridled chaos. Within each tune, the band is pretty devious in how they allow the song to breathe and swell from low-key atmospherics to full on screeches and squeals. The one thing that remains consistent with each song is control. Be it the tempo or even the rhythmic vocals, I'm floored with how maniacal this disc sounds without losing my interest for a moment. The fact that the songs are actually memorable is not something easily achieved in this genre. The dual male/female vocals are an immediate distinction that the listener can make which sets them apart from any contemporaries they might have.
Opening the disc is an immediate kick in the teeth by the name of "Same Shade of Concrete." The clean break during this song is an interesting medium that makes the incredibly unrefined vocals seem even rawer. My favorite song, "Non-Objective Portrait of Karma," seems like a great song to play if you want to put everyone to sleep with a 3 and half minute electronic intro and like having your hair suddenly ripped from it's roots with the incredible transition to the remaining 3 minutes of the song. Not surprisingly I found some bizarre lyrical quirks in the liner notes such as "Concrete replaces each branch and twig as they were prayed upon the birth of ambition." While I really have no clue what that's supposed to mean, I feel like I do because the music is such an anomaly that it fits in.
This folks, is how chaotic music is supposed to be played. CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE have rocked my socks off with something completely different and volatile. If this band can't turn your head then you probably just don't "get it." As pretentious as that may sound, this band is the farthest thing from ordinary and is definitely not what any of us were expecting.
-- Adam Barone / Euphonic --
The band´s name reminded me first of a terrible band name Square The Circle, but luckily CTTS have nothing in common with them. Hailing from Savannah, which brought us some other great bands, CTTS are out to contribute their interpretation of HC in 2004 to the many different forms, which are still out there. By writing this, I indirectly implicate that CTTS are doing something different and original and… this is true. Ok, it´s hard to give new impulses to any musical genre today, but CTTS are able to reshape the old and give birth to a new bastard. Complex and packed with ideas, the eight songs are definitely not music to relax to, but if you take your time, they´ll surely grow on you. Emotional and chaotic, driven by great vocal performance. I think they would blow me away live… until then I have to stick to this CD. Great!
-- www.enoughfanzine.com --
Usually I find it pretty hard to listen to bands playing a complex blend of chaotic and emotional Hardcore, but bands who come up with such an amazing and impressive layout really deserve to get a closer examination. The packaging is far away from the average, more in the vein of a fold out digi pack. I always wonder how small labels like Robotic Empire can come up with such a great packaging while many major label releases are just boring when it comes to the layout. Anyway, let's got to the music which is, as I said, complex, intense and emotional Hardcore with all three band members adding vocals, which means you can hear one female and two male voices on "As the roots undo", the first full length of CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE. "Straighter" parts are repeatedly turning into eruptive, blasting and complex parts. You know, not the stuff that I put on daily, but I can say that it's damn good musicianship you can find here and I could imagine that their even more intense on stage. Fans of this variation of Hardcore (Botch, Converge, Children of Fall etc.) can add another fine group to their list of favourite bands, I'm sure they will like CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE.
-- Stefan / www.voiceofreason.de --
Oh man, the packaging alone makes me psyched about this cd. It’s an AMAZING looking digipack that is folded somewhat like an envelope. Beautifully done. But the packaging is unimportant if the music sucks isn’t it? Well, don’t worry about that! Jeez… This must be one of the best cd’s I’ve heard in a long long time. I think the last time I was this amazed by a cd, it was by City Of Caterpillar’s self titled. Circle Takes The Square is not all that much unlike them. They’ve been around for a couple of years now, and this is their first full length. They bring a diverse sound stretching from quiet beautiful guitar to chaotic passionate hardcore supported by both male and female screams, whispers and chants. The lyrics are somewhat poetic, which makes it hard for me to completely understand them, but it’s clear to me this is an intelligent band. As they say themselves in their short explanation of the lyrics they’re about documenting “the different points on a path to self-realization”. I hope this cd will be available a lot better than Circle Takes The Square’s previous work, which includes a split 7 inch with the now defunct Pageninetynine. That one’s worth picking up if you ever come by it as well (awesome packaging on that too). If you’re in any way interested in this kind of music, go pick this up. And if you’re not, go pick it up nonetheless! This band needs to use the bucks to tour Europe if you ask me! Circle Takes The Square deserves worldwide appreciation.
-- Jochem Kühnen / www.insideknowledge.net --
Being interesting is a good thing. Having an idea and going with it so far that you’ve created a sort of mini-empire, a concept which defines and shapes everything you do is far more imaginative than 99% of ‘artists’ out there. For this, Circle Takes The Square have to be admired and appreciated. There is something absolutely epic and spectacular about them, with a compelling, almost circus-like extravagance to their unique brand of dark metal infused- screamo. And yes, loads of ‘scene’ kids love them right now. So shall we carry on?
What is most striking about CTTS's discordant style is the fact that they are instantaneously throwing themselves from one corner of the progressive screamo/hardcore genre to the other end entirely, and within a matter of seconds their sound covers a rather epic scale of ground. Within the first 2 minutes of the first proper song, 'Same shade as concrete', their style has changed so intensely and dramatically you barely remember how the song started. From gothic tinged metalcore to straight up pounding brutality to (both bizarrely and fittingly) a trip-hop moment, it has to be lauded. But it is dramatic in every sense, from the dual female/male vocalists over-emphasised (and at times sounding comical) theatrical screams and melodramatic lyrics to the musical prowess which is just so varied and somewhat brilliant you are almost left speechless.
Complaints of the irritating male vocalist can be felt at the start of track 3, 'Crowquill', as it verges too far on Dani Filth at times, and overpowers the sheer musicianship happening in the 'background'. This is probably what is easiest to criticise about CTTS, and perhaps may become a problem, when the singer's voice becomes so annoying after a while you can't bear to listen to it and so forget just how good an album it is. Even worse, to forget the mastery they've gained and created with this and the fact that there's only three of them in the band. It is quite a compelling, intense listen on the first few goes, especially since most of the songs are over five minutes long.
Having heard 'Non objective portrait of karma' a fair few times and now finding myself tired of that song, this could be the fate of the whole album. It's hardly timeless, just at this very moment in time something rather great. From the opening classic metal riffs of 'Interview at the ruins' to the fact the album feels like its telling some kind of Victorian gothic story which could soundtrack a mist-ridden Tim Burton movie, it just covers some pretty damn amazing ground. Whether it will last after the tenth listen (or until their next release) remains to be seen, but very few people are doing stuff like this at the moment. I feel now I should say something like 'HAIL!' or equally cheesy. Well, 'HAIL!' indeed.
-- www.thecommunion.co.uk --
With so many different tangents already existing in the punk/hardcore domain, it's impossible to think there may be room for another. Coming across like the bastard indie offspring of Every Time I Die in their erratic time signatures, and sidling up nicely to UK Spoke-core-ists The Murder Of Rosa Luxemburg; Savannah, GA trip Circle Takes The Square are carving out their own quarters. More uncomfortable than wearing a hair shirt or bedding down on a slab of nails, the scouring guy and gal vocals are scratchier than the glass shards swept away on 'Interview At The Ruins'. And what an epic it proves to be, combining bold, striding riffs and feral bass lines with an almost folky, witchy chant to end. There's the haunting 'Non-Objective Portrait Of Karma' and the edgy burst of adrenalin-fuelled 'Kill The Switch' with guitars on frenzy-overdrive. A fully rounded effort.
-- Ronnie Kerswell / Rock Sound --
From first listen of the new Circle Takes The Square full length, "As The Roots Undo" I vision a peaceful village in the 1600's suddenly corrupted by the spread of a horrific killing disease. This album is absolutely brilliant. Shreeking screams harmonizing together as if eyes were being torn from their sockets, unthinkable transitions, heartbeat-like drums that suddenly start to convulse from a nightmare of consistant double bass and fast tom fills to a vision of artistic genius produced by Circle Takes The Square. Track five is my favorite song, with it's chanting build-up, speaking the words, "a mur mur from the ruins that go softly as the roots undo, and the branch becomes...". Pick up this album from Robotic Empire (Daughters!, A Life Once Lost), one of our favorite record labels, at www.roboticempire.com.
-- Josh Bakaitus / Bridgeport Entertainment --
Consisting of three members hailing from Georgia, Circle Takes the Square have created a sound like no other. A bit of grind, a bit of screamo with the emotional and artisitic feel of Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower or a extremely psychotic, non-electronica Le Tigre. Blast beats, dueling vocals (female and male), and awe-inspiring melodies make As the Roots Undo a solid release. There is truely a loss for words when listen to the music of CTTS. One hyphenated word for you, mind-blowing!
-- Marcus & James / northeasthardcore.com --
Holy shit, this cd is the most amazing thing I have ever heard. Ever. Go buy it, now. There's really not a lot to say about "As the Roots Undo" except how great it is. If you're already a fan of CTTS, pick it up. If you're not, pick it up anyway, it'll blow you away. And if you don't believe me, go download "Non-Objective Portrait of Karma" and listen to it. And if you can honestly say you don't like it, I don't know what's wrong with you.
-- Brad / Interpunk.com --
“Rejoice, rejoice a noble birth!” are the first words spoken before a clamorous avalanche of schizophrenic drums and guitars surrounds the familiar pseudo-call and response singing style of Circle takes the square. As the roots undo seems fitting for a CD that oscillates from tangled cacophonies to deconstructed, naked melodies and sounds. As the roots undo is a wonderfully abrasive collection of lengthy ballads both complex and direct.
The first two tracks sound like the Circle we know; quick and sporadic but with a bit more experimentation. Similarly the remake of “In the nervous light of Sunday” is punchier and more condensed that the original. This release really gets going after the aforementioned trip down memory lane with the beautiful lull of “Interview at the ruins.” The atmospheric song is a wave of bent and soft tones moving over a constant sample of sifting stones. The next track “Non-objective portrait of karma” is an epic that crescendos from a 80s sci-fi sound to a potent cluttered rock masterpiece lyrically and sonically. “Kill the switch” is classic stop and go searing indie intensity expanded into a poetic exercise almost ten minutes long. The last track “A crater to cough in” is another remarkable track dominated by a beautiful refrain hummed in the CD's opening seconds.
As the roots undo is a outstanding full length that is a testimony to Circle takes the square's fluidic but jarring musical moments. There is a blossomed intensity and wonder here that was in utero within previous releases. Buy and adore.
-- Ben Woodard / punkhardcore.com --
Nothing is more excellent than when a fairly unknown semi decent band out of nowhere transitions into a butterfly etched in silk and razor wire. What does this all mean? Let's jump back a few years, more in particular, when Circle Takes The Square released their original album, which strangely happened to be a demo. The concept of releasing a demo as your first piece of recorded music is far beyond my intellectual prowess, but grasp tightly to this far fetched reality, for one of the best albums of 2003 is about to be explained.
Soon after its release, the demo was remastered and put out on CD format under a just created label Hyperrealist. This album was definitely screamo influenced, but went back to the roots of this recently formed genre and embraced being loud and hard. While embodying this wretchedly raw sound, they were still able to have parts of melody and beauty. The dual of male and female vocals added another unique link to the chain of sound. In short, the foundation for a good band was there, but the structure itself was short of great.
Within a few songs this smashed every expectation I had set from listening to their previous effort. Although the lack of a hip hop song was sorely missed, Trigga and Quick will always be remembered. The epic level went from near nil to that of fantasy pilgrims or . I was also amazed by the fact that they could create such a full sound with only drums, guitar and bass, which reminded me of Majority Rule. As The Roots Undo definitely doesn't fit in one genre, a new one would have to be created for it, post screamo perhaps.
"Intro", the first track, lures you in with a softly hummed melody which is soon ruptured by the following track, "Same Shade As Concrete", with a volley of words and sounds. This song displays one of the best assets on this album, which is the ability to subtly drop into a near silent breakdown. Similar to City Of Caterpillar, there begins a progress build back into and beyond the volume and ferocity of what was before. The seventh and longest track, "Kill The Switch", comes close to being a whole ten minutes long. Any song that can hold your attention for that long is an achievement, especially for music this hard.
"As The Roots Undo" is just as epic lyrically as the music. At times these written words are similar to those of Saetia, but the way they are crafted to tell a story creates a nice diversion from the vivid imagery. Lines like, "My genes didn't bless me with the foresight of a sage, but I know how this will end, in apologies and ink on the page", add visuals to the already dynamic filled sound. The lyrics are set up in a way where you can just take them as they are, and it will be great, or you can look much deeper to find more meaning.
Double bass can ruin the sound of a band, especially when there are tons of stupid double kick fills. Circle Takes The Square is able to use the double bass effectively with no cheese and metal stomping, especially in the sense of adding heaviness to certain key epic parts. It's also interesting, because nearly all the bands of this 'style' use single bass.
The vocals go through a few different types of deliveries, keeping the sound from sounding too flat. Yes, there is screaming, but there are also harmonizing singing parts, whispers, and even singing that is reminiscent of Bright Eyes.
Potential sleeper hit of 2003, but if it keeps getting pushed back, best album yet of 2004.
Rating: 9.5 / 10
-- Zed / Scene Point Blank --
As I write this review, the actual release of this record has been delayed and delayed so I can't comment on the amazing layout this will most likely have (if the ridiculously cool layout just for the demo was any indication). Anyways, I want to tell a tiny story. The first time I heard this band was when an old band of mine played with them at a house in New Jersey. They went on right before us, and I figured I'd give this touring band with the silly name a shot. They proceeded to make the most noise I'd ever heard come out of three human beings. It was tight but sloppy where it had to be, a perfect mess and beautiful and completely, heartbreakingly human. When they were done I felt like there was a new standard our set had to live up to. That's what this record is: a new standard for this genre. It takes all the potential their demo/EP had and carries it to its fullest extent. They take "screamo" to an entirely new level. This actually feels like an ALBUM, and not just a collection of songs. Each track blends seamlessly into the next and creates a mood of tension and urgency throughout the whole thing. They don't have to play fast and heavy all the time to make their message heard. The softer, building parts have such intensity behind them. My only complaint might be that the softer instrumental parts go on for a bit too long sometimes, but it's a very minor fault I can deal with. Amazing music, extremely well-written lyrics, and vocals that sound like the throat they're coming from could fall apart at any second makes for the most exciting release from this label or genre I've heard in a long time. I can't wait to see where they go from here.
-- Joe Decarolis / Abinka --
One of the weirdest hardcore bands I've ran into lately is Circle Takes the Square. I wouldn't go as far as to call them geniuses, but they do have an edge I hadn't heard before. Imagine multi-layered, multi-rhythmic, frenzied hardcore with evil black metal vocals, clean singing, spoken parts, weird guitar tricks and noise parts. Or as an analogy, think of Dillinger Escape Plan doing black metal whilst on acid. _As the Roots Undo_ is without doubt my favourite noisecore album of the year, giving the buyer good value for their money with songs clocking around six to eight minutes (total running time of 44 minutes) and excellent off-beat artwork -- hopefully they'll include the lyrics in the booklet. Instead of rambling on about this album, I can only urge you to go out and buy it as soon as it hits the shelves -- unless you lack a sense of humor and like your music to be linear. If you want to be on the safe side, there's an MP3 of the album on their website. 9.5 / 10
-- Xander / Chronicles of Chaos --