29 Jul 2014

Circulatory System "Mosaics Within Mosaics"


Reviewed by Jason Simpson (Forestpunk)

I always forget that Circulatory System is the project of Will Hart. I also forget how much I miss Olivia Tremor Control and the other Elephant 6 offshoots until I press plunge and am submerged in Hart's world of dreamy, orchestral, slack- key grandeur.

Post-modernism has never had its true anthem. The closest corollary would be Alice's adventures in Wonderland and through the looking glass, and even that is at a distance as Alice was a representative from the Victorian age dealing with the chaos and confusion with proper etiquette and rote learning. She was never totally IN it.

Will Hart, along with a bunch of other E6 alum have composed a proper soundtrack to many of the 20th centuries hardest lessons. There's uncertainty ("You might never know why" from "The Reasons Before You Knew"), relativity ("It's funny how long it's been, for the young rocks on the shore", from "Aerial View of a Heart (From Above)", linguistics (the double entendre wordplay of "When You're Small"), sub-atomics and hermetic philosophy, "Stars And Molecules"), existentialism ("Does it feel like a dream/you'll never wake up from", also from "The Reasons...."), and transcendentalism ("When you open up your mind, will it open other windows", also from "Stars And Molecules").

While these may be difficult concepts, "Mosaics Within Mosaics" is not difficult listening. It's quite the opposite in fact. Most of "Mosaics Within Mosaics" is gentle, swaying, shambolic psychedelic pop that wouldn't sound out of place on a Stephen Malkmus or Steely Dan record, not to mention the classics like The Beatles or the E6 canon. The closest comparison is Will Hart's own "Dusk At Cubist Castle" with Olivia Tremor Control, as "Mosaics..." follows a similar pattern of glorious, catchy pop tunes arising from a surreal bricolage of concrete cut-up collage, here in the form of "Mosaic #?", 8 in all, making the tunes seem like atomized fragments of half-recalled memories, arising from the confusion of the subconscious, from the ether of the id. This can best be seen on "Open Up Your Lives", whose chiming chords and questioning lyrics arise from a bramble of crackles and refrigerator drones, and returns to a sound sculpture of infinite squeeze boxes played by disembodied hands.

While these tunes may be poppy and infectious, they are still weird as sin as can be seen on "Over Dinner A Cardinal Spoke" which sounds like a klezmer wedding band's take on The Grateful Dead's "Eyes Of The World". It reminds me of Yo La Tengo's video for "Tom Courtnay", which features Ira Kaplan playing clarinet in the bathroom stall of a rock 'n roll camp like some high school stoner, only to be busted by an Ace Frehley look-alike. We all know this is the true rock 'n roll; doing what you want, being true to thine own self, giving music a much longer shelf life than the mock pyrotechnics of the arena warriors which too quickly passes from true epics to flabby pretense.

"Mosaics Within Mosaics" is a true achievement for a number of reasons. The most publicized would be the contributions of other Elephant 6 allies Derek Almstead (Faster Circuits), John Fernandes (Olivia Tremor Control), Heather McIntosh (The Instruments), AJ Griffin (Laminated Cat), Peter Erchick (The Olivia Tremor Control, Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't), and most notably the first ferric appearance of Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum since 2009 (and that was only a single song for a contribution) along with fellow NMHer Jeremy Barnes, who also plays in A Hawk Or A Hacksaw.

This record is not reliant on cameos to be a stunning success or achievement however. "Mosaics Within Mosaics" is the first Circulatory System since 2009, and Will Hart has been battling with Multiple Sclerosis in the meantime which can make tying your shoes difficult, let alone composing a brilliant, timeless psychedelic travelogue. We are all the better, for Hart's perseverance. "Mosaics Within Mosaics" asks more questions than it offers answers. It reflects the cloud of confusion of living in a world with seven billion perspectives (not to mention the other living organisms on earth) with immediate access to people and places all over the globe and sometimes, the galaxy. It begins to be difficult to speak objectively, authoritatively. You can only speak for yourself, for your own experience. And not even then, as who knows completely what influences and effects us. If cosmic horror like H. P. Lovecraft or Thomas Ligotti describes the terror of this dissolution, Circulatory System is the sound of embracing freefall. How I Learned To Stop Worrying, and Love The Moment.

"Mosaics Within Mosaics" is the kind of record that makes you sad when the review is over, as I no longer have reason to obsessively listen over and over, looking for clues and latch keys in the lyrics, speculating on choices of instrument and structure. It's a coded puzzle, a matrix of songs, which yields more strange, beautious organisms with each successive listen. A true and faithful relation of the disintegration of the persistence of memory.

Available here on vinyl, and here on CD.

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