This coming Friday, June 4th, Metal Assault Records will release Narci, the second album by the anonymous international collective known as Circle of Sighs, and today we bring you a full stream of all its wonders — and the wonders are indeed manifold.
“Progressive-synth-doom” is a label you might have seen for their constantly surprising music, but that barely scratches the surface. More revealing are the PR characterizations which drop references to glitch-pop, prog rock, dark jazz, industrial gaze, and grindcore influences, or which remark upon the band’s exploration of “the outer reaches of metal’s avant garde”. Not for naught is the album recommended for fans of such disparate groups as Yob, Tubeway Army, Pallbearer, King Crimson, Depeche Mode, Thomas Dolby, Brian Eno, and Neurosis — and that’s not nearly an exhaustive list.
Narci is described as “a quasi-concept album about an eschatoligcal event caused by a digitally communicable mental disease.” Many of us had our first introduction to the album through the wild video released for its title track. That song is driven by an electrifying drum performance, and provides a platform for the guitars to execute a multitude of mad contortions — raking and roiling, blaring and screaming — accompanied by savage vocal proclamations. And then, without warning, the mauling, exhilarating madness ceases… and we’re delivered into a smoky jazz lounge with opium fumes in the air.
But the title track is just the tip of a surrealistic iceberg. Or perhaps it’s better to say that it’s the middle of the iceberg, since it appears sixth in the eight-song running order. The idiosyncrasies of the album are quite evident by that point.
For example, the band choose to open the record with its longest track, the 10-minute “Spectral Arms“, whose acoustic picking and beautiful vocals might remind at times of Crosby Stills & Nash in their hey-day, but evolves along a twisting path that brings in head-moving percussive combinations, heavy distorted chords, beguiling piano melodies, distant detonations, warm and enticing bass lines, scything riffage, chilling whispers, and frightening growls.
That big opening track is mesmerizing, and also heavy, haunting, and ultimately frightening — and it’s just a hint of all the head-spinning permutations to come.
Those preceding references to glitch-pop and prog rock are borne out by the compulsively muscle-twitching and dark-shadowed “We Need Legends”. Industrialized electronics, bouncing beats, and seductive singing highlight “A Crystal Crown of Cosmic Pain”, and by now it should come as no shock that Circle of Sighs would choose to insert a hallucinatory, atmospheric cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Roses Blue” — which also includes oppressive, bone-mangling chords and cauterizing shrieks.
Further track-specific summaries might become tedious, and would inevitably involve even more spoilers. Perhaps it’s better to simply let you experience all the strange and often confounding wonders for yourself. But we strongly urge you to do that, and to begin at the beginning, and allow yourself to be carried forward to the end, without interruption.