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CD Feature/ Sunburned Circle: "The Blaze Game"

img  Tobias

The problem of most improvisational bands consists in transporting the magic of their live performances to a digital medium like the CD. Both bands participating in this release have found an easy way out of this dilemma: They have made the stage their studio and vice versa. Sunburned Hand of the Man, who are mostly referred to as more of a collective banner and less of a band have virtually not stopped releasing at least five albums a year since they changed their name from Shit Spangled Banner in 2001, while rock nostalgists Circle, often sadly mistaken for a “fun band”, have been equally productive and dedicated to their material. In Tampere, in the middle of the Finnish winter, the two fractions stumbled upon each other on the same leg of different tours and decided to join hands and instruments, resulting in a one-night free-form supergroup and the roughly fourty minutes of “The Blaze Game”.

With the two ensembles happy to be labelled as the weirdest and most outlandish of their already anything but usual trade, don’t expect any “songs”, obvious hooks or catchy chorusses. In fact, one has to consider it a surprise that there are veritable “tracks” on this effort at all, even though some of them flow into each other and can be regarded as logical continuations of their predecessors, instead of self-sustained compositions. Despite this interconnectedness, the flow of the record is regularly interrupted by abrupt breaks from the editing room. The psychedelic vibrations of “Vuoren Valloitus”, for example, fade away in just two seconds’ time, making way for the open structures of “Variksenpelätin” and the CD bonus track “Last Song”, with its harsh riffs and punky drumming, is clearly made from a different cloth than everything else here alltogether.

If one leaves out these details for a second and concentrates on the essence, however, flow is everything on “The Blaze Game”. A myriad of percussion patterns, richly spread out over shakers, tom-toms, bongos and a  regular (!) drum set are constantly craving for interaction, continually searching for the perfect groove, communicating intuitively with bass and guitar. Only seldomly does one find typical licks and chords, the guitar mostly serves as a tool to provide ambiance, oscillation and pulse, sending open tones into the ether, which force the listener into no particular direction whatsoever. In stark contrast, the bass is the main melodic instrument here, stretching its muscles in flexible, elastic, circular repetitions. Just as important are the spacey effects and distant harmonic echoes produced by various synthesizers, organs and the arsenal of samples sent towards the audience by Tuomas Laurila.

The result is a slightly unreal set of ebbing and flowing pieces, which never really come to a climax. “The Blaze Game” is best listened to while trying to find sleep in a full-moon night, its structures revealing themselves in more detail the less one actively searches for them. In the golden 70s, many bands merely used songs as starting points for their improvisations. This period has apparently left a strong impression on the Finnish/Maerican conglomerate, with the slight difference that there are no longer any songs. This, too, serves as a perfect solution to the improvisational dilemma. When the need to play “hits” or “golden oldies” disappears, then so does the polarity between a “live” and a “studio” album. This trip certainly looses none of its magic when played on your stereo at home.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Sunburned Hand of the Man
Homepage: Circle
Homepage: Conspiracy Records

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