Jussi Lehtisalo knows his homeland well, and the primal urges of his group Circle evoke its landscape and isolation in hypnotic waves. Though its American fan base may be split between webzine-reading college dudes and gray-bearded prog nerds, Circle's music defies the cloistered machinations of trends. Circle has been steadily releasing records for 15 years.
Finland is an unlikely new centrifuge of psychedelic music, with Circle the king on the throne, its headquarters in Pori. A whole subculture of groups has spawned from Lehtisalo's other projects, and younger bands have begun to branch off from this inspiration. Fans drop names like heavy-riffing Krautrock icons CAN and metalloid star-watchers Hawkwind in the same sentence, but Circle's nebulous sound defies those tags.
With a tribal percussion underpinning, singer Mika Rättö often uses his vocals as a lyric-less invocation; in his native tongue, it sounds like ceremonial rites are being performed. Indeed, in the band's early concerts, solemn, mass-like rituals were performed, overseen by a proctor. The collective then went through a period of "gentleman-like AOR-performing with neckties," as Lehtisalo once told Hellride Music. Recent shows reflect a return to primitive transgression.
If the band's reputation inspires images of matted-hair barbarians wielding iron staffs and forked tongues, its diverse music doth also possess a more pastoral side. Ebbing and flowing like the ice floes of their Scandinavian home, Circle can mesmerize and calm in shimmering passages, revealing cracks of light between foreboding glaciers.
For them, the borealis's glow still illuminates minds with its soft pinks and blues. For the rest of us, Circle translates.
Circle plays Local 506 with avant-rockers Cul De Sac and Glissade on Tuesday, March 14. Ceremonies begin at 10 p.m. and cost $10.