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The Scarlet & Black

Russians run circles around lyrics

by Mike Kleine
You won’t need to speak a second language for this Saturday’s show—Russian Circles is an instrumental three-piece band from Chicago. As a matter of fact, English isn’t required either—these guys just aren’t that into singing so don’t go expecting to be moved by any deep or meaningful lyrics. Russian Circles keeps it pretty basic. It’s three dudes: a guitarist, bassist and drummer. Anymore and they’d be like any other musical act. Well, almost.
Nowadays, anyone can make a song. The “one-man band” phenomenon is all too common and the laptop is quickly becoming the replacement-drummer or even backup singer for many modern acts. Instrumental music is no longer associated with the jam band or psychedelic outfit. That was back then—now it’s 2010. Ask around and most kids will probably tell you that instrumental music means that it’s most likely electronic. Russian Circles thinks otherwise.
It all began in 2004 when guitarist Mike Sullivan teamed up with bassist Colin DeKuiper to form the band. Shortly after, Dave Turncrantz also joined and took over drumming duties. In late 2007, DeKuiper left the band only to be replaced by Brian Cook, of These Arms Are Snakes fame, a similar cohort. Their first record, “Enter” is certainly impressive and many of the tracks suggest a sound similar to that of Explosions in the Sky, except much heavier. For aspiring guitarists, music theorists, ex-drummers and general appreciators of music, this Saturday should be fantastic.
Think about it—how are three guys supposed to entertain an entire crowd for more than a few minutes if there is no singing? Here’s how—when performing live, in order to recreate that rich sound they are known to produce on their studio tracks, both Sullivan and Cook employ the use of multiple effects pedals and loop-stations to layer their sound. The end effect certainly reads like there are more than just three guys on stage. Side note—it may be hard to tell two songs apart since their heavy use of feedback allows for seamless transitions between songs.
Musically, Russian Circles is post-everything. This makes it even harder to classify them, let alone explain their sound to the uninitiated. On the whole, they’re a bit math-rockey, slightly atmospheric and psychedelic at parts, but most importantly, instru-metal.

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