Circles Around The Sun Let It Wander (2LP) - Vinyl

Circles Around The Sun


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Originally, Circles Around the Sun weren't so much a band as a project. The quartet -- guitarist Neal Casal and keyboardist Adam MacDougall (bandmates in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood), bassist Dan Horne, and drummer Mark Levy -- came together to cut a handful of Grateful Dead-influenced prerecorded instrumentals to be played during set breaks at 2015's "Fare Thee Well" concerts. But concert audiences responded so positively, Rhino issued the music as the album Interludes for the Dead. The group members decided they were having enough fun to continue making music together. Let It Wander is their second double-length album. Circles Around the Sun entered Ventura, California's Castaway 7 Studios and worked on tunes that would showcase a sound they were, as Casal put it, "growing into." These seven instrumentals reveal a progression from Interludes for the Dead. The band was unfettered by any goal when recording, and the sense of freedom is pervasive here.
As evidenced by opener "On My Mind," elements of jazzy rock, spindly funk, and mellow psych commingle as electric piano, synth, and Casal's lyrical, pointillistic guitar playing (deeply influenced by Jerry Garcia) articulate the melody. The rhythm section keeps it bumping, with guest Jeff Franca's congas adding a Latin flavor. The tune is songlike in structure, with various solos, a wordless chorus, and middle eight all built in. It gives way to "One for Chuck," featuring Chuck D speaking in the intro. Its vibe is nocturnal and much funkier, as popping clavinet vamps frame rubbery bassline and snare breaks. Casal rocks it out just enough in his solo, using a wah-wah pedal as his guide into the rhythm. "Immovable Object" marries the instrumental psych feel of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood with the gritty, good-time groove of Herbie Hancock's group on Fat Albert Rotunda. MacDougall's killer keyboard playing is as much an attraction as Casal's picking -- and the rhythm section lays down a foundation so solid it cannot be shaken.
"Halicarnassus" is one of two 19-plus-minute jams here. It unfolds gradually in 7/8 time, fueled by a knotty little vamp underscored by the rhythm section laying down their best Meters, with riff and single-line exchanges between Casal and MacDougall. On the backbone-slipping "Tacoma Narrows," clavinet and bass entwine, syncopating the funk riff and souled-out melody as popping drum breaks and spidery guitar lines emerge from the center. The 19-minute closer, "Ticket to Helix NGC 7293," is initially a breezy, sun-kissed psychedelic jam but evolves into a morass of tripped-out, abstract sonic and dynamic shifts that evoke the Dead's Anthem of the Sun before winding all the way around into a drifting Hendrix-ian jam with double-time snare and bubbling basslines. Let It Wander offers numerous surprises for listeners in these fine, almost hummable jam-style tunes; the canny playing and adventurousness this group displays here are tantamount to a major musical discovery. All killer, no filler. ~ Thom Jurek

  • Format: Vinyl
  • Genre: Pop

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