[CD Review] Circulatory System, 'Signal Morning' (Cloud Recordings)
Though its heyday has passed, the legacy of the psych-pop collective Elephant 6 has been preserved through classic records by Neutral Milk Hotel, the Apples In Stereo and the Olivia Tremor Control. Off the radar for years, Elephant 6 has recently attached its logo to a few new releases. And now comes the second album from Circulatory System, the post-Olivia Tremor Control work of Bill Doss and his dense network of collaborators.
Signal Morning is long overdue (the band’s self-titled debut came out in 2001), yet it’s instantly recognizable. It opens with the effects-swirled “Woodpecker Greeting Worker Ant,” on which Doss’s familiar harmonizing with Olivia Tremor Control cohort Will Hart competes with shuddering distortion. Featuring every member of Doss’s former band, this is a bit like déjà vu. It also re-establishes the trademark Elephant 6 sound: poppy, curtained with fuzz, casually orchestral and bursting with ideas.
Recorded in at least seven locations, the album is a joyous mess. Specific instruments aren’t always identifiable, and the 17 tracks have only the haziest outlines. Several songs simulate dialing through radio stations, a reminder that Doss can’t help playing fast and loose with structure. At times, the band are restless to a fault: The pop promise of both “The Breathing Universe” and “I You We” fades after about a minute.
Still, “This Morning (We Remembered Everything)” wrangles a strong chorus from its title, and “Round Again” is more anchored. It’s a good sign when the closing title track lunges into a ringing hook, but the song proves as fleeting as the others, ending just as abruptly. Beginners might be baffled by it all, but Elephant 6 fans have come to expect such ceaseless tinkering and intermittent flashes of genius.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.