Circle of Heat provide an intelligent alternative to mindless jamming. These four University of Minnesota music department products are celebrating the release of a self-titled album tonight at Bunker's, and the results should be filled with interstellar keyboard and guitar duels. Drawing as much from Frank Zappa's Freak Out! as they do from classical jazz, each track is loaded with instrumental gymnastics.
"We all had three years of college experience playing in chamber ensembles, symphonies, bands, and choirs before we formed, so we were able to utilize the rehearsal and performance techniques we learned in school," says guitarist Tom Alane. "This gave us a huge leg up, in that we knew we wanted to sound tight and rehearsed before we played live."
When there are vocals on the record, they function less as a platform for lyrics and more as another instrument. Lead vocalist and songwriter Trevor Anderson fits his voice to the pace of the music rather than the other way around, and his tenor glides smoothly along.
"All of the songs with lyrics started with just the music and then we decided to add words later," says Alane. "At first, I think it was very much a 'we need to have at least one song with lyrics' kind of thing, but then we ended up really enjoying the way we were able to incorporate the words into the music so it became more natural."
The vocals may not the centerpiece of the album, but it's a very good time when they do appear. The song "The Realm" is a sweeping saga: aside from the minute-plus build-up before Anderson's tenor punches through, the lyrics tell the tongue-in-cheek tale of a far-away galaxy with a history that could double as our own. Here's another funked out example called "Dr. Bucky."
"Truthfully, what we're going for is an original sound that comes from playing the music we want to play, rather than trying to fit into certain categories, or doing 'what's popular,'" says Alane. "Our music is driven by our genuine love for music as an art form. We set out to write music that we are going to like. We don't listen to pop music and then look for a way to inject that sound into ours to make it more accessible."
That sort of mentality is part of the reason Circle of Heat has been able to play shows around town since 2010 while remaining largely undetected. Though now, with the band's CD release and a strong calendar of shows booked out, that will likely change. After their release show, the band has some summer music festivals lined up, including Bella Fiore, Jam for Jamaica, and the Midwest Music Fest, as well as a fall tour in the works.
"Finally having this album in our hands is an indescribable feeling," says Alane of the band's next steps. "It feels like we finally have a foothold that we can use to really take things to that next level."
You can catch Circle of Heat in action at their CD release tonight, March 30, at Bunker's. Show is at 9:30 PM. $5 cover.