By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
THE LINER NOTES on Circulatory System's self-titled album list instruments that sound like Twinkie ingredients: zanzithophone and skembie. Among these warbling whatchamacallits are chamber-pop standards such as trombones and violins, as well as sheet metal and a magic tape organ. All of which culminates in an organic alternative to homogenized pre-packaged popular music.
Fans of Athens artniks Olivia Tremor Control will immediately recognize the crunchy taste of Circulatory System: The latter are merely a new-and-improved version of the former. Assembled after the departure of OTC co-founder Bill Doss, System is the signature of Olivia imagist Will Cullen Hart. Also contributing are members of Neutral Milk Hotel and Elf Power.
The technicolor dreamscapes that adorn Hart's album cover come with a sound as warm and encompassing as his group of friends. In the jamboree "Yesterday's World," Hart leads his buddies in a vocal round that's backed by rousing trumpets and marching drums: It's as if he's commanding a high school band to play Abbey Road backward. The musical nostalgia catches up with him as he reminisces, "Yesterday seems just so far away from these days." Hart has considerable skepticism about the present age, drawing instead upon the past impressions made by Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and Joseph Byrd's United States of America--whose 1968 "The American Metaphysical Circus" incorporated a similar marching-band-on-acid aesthetic.
Hart has big shoes to fill, but his shoebox time capsule stands on its own. "Outside Blasts" finds a battalion of toy soldiers headed into battle behind his grumbling vocals, barely discernable beneath trembling waves of snare and renegade horns. On the subdued "Joy," Hart chants, "You can still believe in joy," before drowning in radio waves amidst the optimism of "The Lovely Universe." "Inside Blasts" is far more melancholy, but CS's Greek chorus soon echoes through "Symbols and Maps" as Hart meditates on spiritual recovery: "Such a long way," he says. For time travelers wanting all the adventure that a pair of headphones can provide, Circulatory System is like nothing else ever heard--especially for those who've heard it all before.