Raunio CD


Time Out New York, January 16-23, 2003

"Raunio, a turbulently edited collage of live shows, marks a drastic overhaul of both lineup and sound. Multiple versions of the same songs play simultaneously, blend together and dissolve into either trance-inducing serenity or seizure-inducing wildness. Improvised, ritualistic chants bookend robust workouts such as "Dedofiktion," a sly, lunar shimmer that accelerates into a punk-metal cataclysm."-Jordan Mamone

Aquarius Records web site

"Weird. That's the word to describe this new live disc from our favorite Finnish band, the one and only Circle. Of course, Circle is always weird, but on "Raunio" they're downright spooky-weird! Mika Ratto, in addition to his Goblin-esque keyboard lines, provides bizarrely effected, spaced-out vocals somewhere between a warped idea of Native American chant and the histrionics of someone like Rob Halford of Judas Priest (well, maybe Mika's spiked armband provokes that comparison -- see the pic in The Wire #215) getting really "out" and, well, weird. Besides the vocals of Mika, there's just lots of spacey, noisy stuff on here. The disc sounds great (they're an amazing live band and this is quite well recorded). You can hear the enthusiastic audience at the start of a few songs, but they are quickly drowned out by Circle's amplified insanity. The album (derived from two shows in Finland this past fall) features a great version of "Dedofiktion" (one of the highlights of their Prospekt album) and at least one song derived from their latest studio album, Taantalums (which we don't have yet, as it's soon to be released in the USA on our own Andee's tUMULt label, as a picture disc 12" and then a cd, sorry for the wait). The rest of Raunio consists of either new songs or live improvisations (or both)!"

Dusted E-Zine

"Finlandıs Circle has been playing swirling, repetitive psychedelia in Europe for well over a decade, but Raunio, released on the excellent Squealer label, ought to be Circleıs highest-profile U.S. release since 1993ıs Crawatt EP. And now seems like an opportune time for Circle to break out in the States (at least in indie terms), since the ears of underground rock fans are as open as theyıve ever been to bands like Acid Mothers Temple and Sigur Rós, who American rock fans probably enjoy as much for their mysterious Otherness as their music. Itıs not that indie kids like either band for the wrong reasons, really, or that the bands donıt deserve the attention (though I donıt have much time for Sigur Rós, personally). Expansive, cinematic, edge-of-the-world rock just goes down easier when itıs performed by a rotating cast of wild-haired Japanese hippies or a helium-voiced Icelandic man who sings in a made-up language. The two bandsı music shoots for a wide-open sort of mystique, and their respective images reinforce it.

Circle is similar to both bands, but for very different reasons. Circleıs use of noise isnıt far from Acid Mothers Templeıs, and the two bands share an obvious love of metal and krautrock. In fact, the influence of Neu! and Can is even more pronounced in Circleıs sound than it is in AMTıs: at least half of Raunio features snappy, motorik beats.

The most obvious similarity between Circle and Sigur Rós, meanwhile, is that both groups sing in made-up languages. And in Circleıs quieter moments, which feature minor-key chord progressions and plinking Fender Rhodes-like keyboards, Sigur Rós-style preciousness starts to creep in. But thatıs quickly nixed by the vocals themselves, which sound like nothing youıve ever heard, unless you remember Caustic Resinıs Brett Netson ­ Mika Rättöıs gruff vibrato is both aggressive and otherworldly.

Unlike a lot of albums, by, say, Acid Mothers Temple (New Geocentric World Of, for example), Raunio feels like one grand gesture‹the transitions between tracks arenıt jarring. The albumıs seamless feel has a lot to do with its editing, which is a double-edged sword. Raunio was recorded live, then manipulated in a studio‹which seems like a good idea, especially for a band that gets so much mileage from repetition and noise, but the sound quality isnıt great, and sometimes Rättöıs vocals and even the drums get lost in the tacked-on waves of distortion.

While Iım sure there are better sounding Circle recordings out there, though, Raunio is probably the easiest to find, and itıs still an awfully good record. Raunio could be a huge hit with fans of Can and Acid Mothers Temple ­ time will tell if the hype surrounding such hypnotic-mysterious acts as AMT and Sigur Rós will stretch far enough to get Circle the attention they deserve."-Charlie Wilmouth

Pitchfork January 16th, 2003

"The legacy of Krautrock isn't so much in the heavy, repetitive strains of "Lokki" or the spaced-out ambience of parts I-IV of the title track on this live album by the Finnish band Circle. There's a case for the old German guard provoking the vaguely druggy, pseudo lo-fi curtain which clouds this recording, but then, any number of scenes (or drugs) could've been responsible for that. For all we know, it could've been an entirely isolated idea to obscure the small details of these tunes in analog haze, and Circle win points for their bizarre audience manipulations. The lasting effect is not one of aural namedropping, but truly out-there exploration; it's also definitely a rock album, as opposed to some acid trip with drums. Sure, things get a little out of hand in places, and Circle's sort of dank, medieval trance isn't the first thing I'd recommend to my sister, but everyone needs a scare now and then, right?

Circle's first EPs (Silver, DNA, Point) were too rare-- and possibly a few years early for the post-rock boom-- to make much of a splash outside of early-90s Finland. The band began as noisy proponents of the Krautrock groove (I'd say they were more Amon Düül II than Neu!), but could as often erupt into no-wave tantrums as hard, sweeping beat sagas. Furthermore, bassist Jussi Lehtisalo's old black-magic-via-Judas Priest vocals introduced a decidedly non-Kraut sense of dread into the mix, placing Circle nearer the lineage of mystical (bordering on mythological) prog, more akin to the darkest Magma. They've refined their sound a tad over the past few years, becoming either a great post-rock band, or one of the worst metal acts going.

For the most part, Circle play it cool on Raunio. Except for the chaotic drone of "Potto" (a possible Acid Mothers homage), the mean noise level is fairly low, and the dynamics are so extended as to hide any spikes. The most interesting moments occur during the markedly calm instances, especially on the title "suite." "Raunio IV" is the most serene of the bunch, featuring spoken word narration over a soft, humming noise-cycle, a synth chord, and the distant sound of someone flipping electrical switches (well, either that or dripping water, but the sounds are abstracted to such an extent that it's pointless to attempt a guess at what's actually happening). "IV" leads to the bonus track "Raubonmix", a tune that ups the lo-fi factor, churning out an otherworldly, dream-state stupor. The soaking wet Rhodes keyboard, which might otherwise suggest any number of hip (read: moronic) 70s soul-jazz throwbacks, lends an angelic timbre to an already light-footed trip.

Some of the music here does stretch out a bit too much, though. The aforementioned "Potto" is truly an affront to the senses, but after a time, you become numb. Likewise, the metallic motorik of "Lokki" is almost thrilling-- as thrilling as oppressive trance-rock gets-- for the first six minutes, but eventually I lose track of time, and wonder why this tune couldn't have taken the same route as "Dedofiktion" (from 2000's Prospekt), which substituted relentless propulsion for this bland, epic goth.

Excepting the sometimes-cloudy sound (which actually adds an appreciated mystique), this is a decent album for any newcomer to Circle's work. 1996's compilation of their early EPs (Kollekt) and the aforementioned Prospekt are where I'd head next, though it'll probably take some time to digest the murky stew of Raunio. Circle's popularity may never fall in line with fellow droners Tortoise, GY!BE or Mogwai-- especially since post-rock is on life-support anyway-- but freaks on the outer rim will know what's up."-Dominique Leone

HighBias Web zine (April 13, 2003)

[In a review which also discusses KINSKI's Airs Above Your Station CD, which we happen to love...]

"This was my introduction to two hot bands on the neo-psychedelic/prog rock scene, Kinski and Circle, who like many groups, are more identifiable by their "sound" than by their "songs." While this is an artistic pose many take in order to avoid the escapist trappings of traditional structure, it may be due in these cases also to the collective creative process that is inherent in the psychedelic tradition, one that has no room for a single-ego writer. The Americans, Kinski, and the Finns, Circle, share an aesthetic grounded not only in heavy psychedelic rock, but also in the extreme volume, chops-protocol and dynamics of heavy metal, and in the drone-based abstractions of Krautrock pioneers such as Neu!

Where they differ is primarily in the side elements that they incorporate into their respective sounds. Kinski incorporate into their sound the weighty tradition of American post-punk from the discordant histrionics of Sonic Youth through the down-tempo tension and release of emo wunderkinds Slint and their legion of followers. Circle, on the other hand, share neither of those affinities, but rather embody a more bluntly childlike experimentation associated with fringe psychedelic acts such as the Silver Apples. Free from such stylistic boundaries, Circle's vocalist/keyboardist Mika Ratto is delighted to ignore the concept of keyboard as ambient device as he inflicts sweeping Arthurian modulations on his audience, all the while waxing frenetically in Nordic tongues.

Modern psychedelic rock, as evidenced by these groups, differs from 60s psychedelic rock (Pink Floyd, Blue Cheer, etc) primarily inasmuch as there are no more cheesy blues guitar lines mixed into the mayhem. It was almost as if those guitarists back then couldn't resist from squeezing in a few distorted Elvis licks that they learned during their pre-teen years. Nowadays, we've already been sonically ear-whacked by Pere Ubu, Captain Beefheart and Suicide, so stripping things down to the abstracted state as posited by Neu! seems like a good way to go.

The Kinski record, which is on the excellent Sub Pop label, is understandably more controlled than the Circle record because of its studio setting. It also introduces a band that can make an incredible variety of sounds with their loud guitars and their various guitar toys. The top half of the album has several marketable and derivative points, like the aptly titled "Semaphor," which pits shards of pulsing guitar mutations though a variety of filters against a Pornography/Seventeen Seconds Cure backdrop. "Rhode Island Freakout" is a brash industrial pass at "Teenage Riot"-era Sonic Youth, complete with bassist Lucy Atkinson's obvious Kim Gordon-esque spoken word vocal. "Schedule For Using Pillows And Beanbags" tools expertly with the emo thing for a few minutes (see also "Steve's Basement"), but is followed by a quite lovely, expansive and impressionistic interlude that serves as a set up for five minutes of glorious sonic payload. Kinski's full-force conviction to the extreme side of noisy drone psych is what I'm talking about here, and it's their main strength. About half way through the CD, they reveal the most highly original aspect of their talents in "I Think I Blew it," a new-age symphony of orchestrated guitar/guitar-like sounds, distinctly different from anything shoegazer, like Sigur Ros. I'm talking Andreas Vollenweider here. Very interesting.

The Circle "performance" on the other hand (it is a live album, albeit with minimal audience interference) is psychedelic not only in terms of style, but more so in the literal squirming feel of lysergic acid diethylamide on your tongue. Reserved to almost straight blasts of downbeats, Circle's front line displays sheer mega-fuck scoundreling under the thunder-smut of a drugger/drummer that is pulsing-mad-off-his-willy-good. Take the eleven-minute performance of "Lokki," which sounds like the Stooges trying to gnaw their way out of Kraftwerk's studio. Or the nervous system overload, and submarine howls of "Dedofiktion," which reminds me of what it feels like to be half conscious when being wheeled into the emergency room during an amphetamine nightmare. Drilling through the center of the Earth with your tooth roots never sounded as fun as on the thirteen minute "Potto," where Mika Ratto delivers Gregorian chants and guttural rasps to what sounds like digital Satan in a rat-piss cage. Or the metal spectactulatude of "Alotis," which far surpasses offending all my sensibilities about what one should go with volume or a guitar, all the while approximating the fantastic glimpse of Robert Plant in a centrifuge. No wonder there is so little audience interference. Or "Raunio II," where Mika broods over a Ray Manzerek "Crystal Ships" piano straight into the white noise brutality of "Kultas." What a great show!

In short, I prefer the Circle record for political reasons, because how can you be as stylistically inhibited as Kinski in such an uninhibiting genre as heavy psych? Where Kinski will knock you out with a hypodermic depressant good enough to sog your every muscle, Circle will electro-shock your eyes to a pervish red awareness. Kinski have too much to live up to. Circle are complete tossers. Circle's CD makes me feel violently free at times. Kinski suck up to the emo scene too much. Let me give you a little lesson: drones sound good because the same notes are being played over and over again. Another lesson: emo's gluttonous grasp of modular scales and the weaving of intertwined guitar and bass riffage sounds good because they're all playing the same scales in different orders‹the key never changes! That's my two cents. So why act like it's such great ballsy music? It takes zero risks in terms of harmonic consequence. It is a genre vehicle for limited musicians to sound competent. Anyone can buy big toys to make themselves seem big. I do have to give credit to Kinski though for learning how to use them."- Jonathan Donaldson

Missoula Independent 1/30/03

"As a devotee of Finnish music for years, Iıve always entertained this vain hope that a Finnish band might someday sneak into the international spotlight and draw some attention away from Sweden for a change. This has never happened once. Itıs happened for Sweden many times, and even for Norway and Denmark, but the closest Finland has ever come to headlining on the international stage is Hanoi Rocks. And even Hanoi Rocks is more famous for Mötley Crüeıs Vince Neil having killed their drummer in a car accident than for the bandıs fun but mostly generic brand of hard glam rock.

Itıs funny, too, because even at the height of the bandıs success, there was nothing discursively Finnish whatsoever about Hanoi Rocks‹least of all the names of the dudes in the band: Andy McCoy, Michael Monroe, Sammy, Gyp and Nasty Suicide. This has always disappointed me. The names sound exactly like what they are: rock handles picked for their generic American cachet by Finnish rockers who were born Antti Hulkko, Matti Fagerholm, Sami Takamäki, Jesper Sporre and Jan Stenfors and who grew up on a steady diet of British and American rock and punk. Even Kata Kärkkäinen, Finlandıs 1989 ambassador to international goodwill of another kind‹the Playboy centerfold‹can hardly be said to have represented anything like a Finnish national girl-next-door type, although in fairness the same holds true of any of the airbrushed bodies or faces in that publication. At least she kept her Finnish name, though, and didnıt change it to ³Kate Kirkland² for the purpose of trying to get famous outside her home country.

But anyway (and I just know youıre still sitting there poking your own brain with a Slim Jim and trying to think of some Finnish musical acts that have eluded me), Iıve been waiting for a long time for a Finnish band to come along and confront the world with its impenetrable Finnishness. The culture can be pretty impenetrable to the outsider‹not least because in order to crack it on its own terms you must first learn a language with 15 different cases and words that stretch around the block.

Perched on the northeastern shoulder of Europe, the country shares many social, cultural and political features with its Scandinavian neighbors, but unlike those countries it has so far failed to vault any national acts onto the international stage. My own opinion is that this is because Finland is a fairly inward-looking country with a correspondingly introverted culture‹one given, as you know if you saw the 60 Minutes segment about Finnish tango dancing a few years ago, to melancholy and an abiding love of distilled spirits. Great architects, ski jumpers, peacekeepers, glassblowers and knife-makers they may be, but thus far in the history of popular music the Finns have managed to remain largely out of international currency.

Some would argue that music is better when itıs enjoyed by a select few. I will at least say that a lot of the sounds I find myself drawn to anyway sound even better when theyıve been marinated in that certain Finnish something that adds an extra weird flavor. Which, for better or worse, in these parts, means that I generally feel like an audience of one when I listen to them.

However, the owner of a local record store tells me that heıs been selling copies of Raunio, a live disc by the Finnish band Circle, almost as soon as he gets them in. Granted, he only gets them in one at a time, but itıs still a start. He says that the album has proven popular with ambient music listeners and other fans of, well, circular music‹droning and hypnotic, with lengthy compositions given to endlessly repeated grooves.

My sense of Finnish national chauvinism is buoyed to hear this, and I hope itıs not long before all the cool kids on the block are nodding their heads to a bona fide Finnish underground sensation. Circle is an amazing mesh of perspectives from five (sometimes more, sometimes less) classically trained musicians whose compositions incorporate everything from Bitches Brew-style fusion upheaval to ı80s butt-rock to liturgical music to vaguely Saame (as the Lapps prefer to call themselves) sounding incantations. And sometimes all in the same song! Keyboardist/vocalist Mika Ratto shrieks, bellows, whispers and mumbles in a voice that sounds like Judas Priestıs Rob Halford performing shaman duties at a ceremony centered around ingesting poisonous hallucinogenic mushrooms‹seriously. The lyrics are a mix of Finnish and a made-up language called Meronian, which sounds a lot like Finnish but only makes sense to Mika Ratto, and the resulting album is for the most part an intriguing document of an amazing live band.

Of the ten or so albums Circle have released, though, Raunio might just be the most intimidating one to start with, which makes it rather an odd choice by North Carolina label Squealer as a first release to license stateside. Taken from three live shows in Finland after a UK tour with similarly psyche-ravaging Japanese band Acid Mothers Temple, the sound quality ranges from decent to horrendous. Performances likewise range from fairly faithful versions of songs released on other albums to full-blown improvisational meltdowns. All the same, it does feature some features common to other Circle albums, namely extended instrumental excursions and a faithful commitment to pounding, trancelike grooves.

Itıs probably safe to say that anyone who likes Raunio has essentially passed the Circle test and is recommended to check out other releases like Taantumus (their best, in my opinion), Andexelt, and Sunrise. You might be able to special-order some other titles through local record stores, and you can certainly mail-order them from Aquarius Records ( in San Francisco. Circleıs very freaky, very Finnish music makes the search required to track it down very worthwhile."-Andy Smetanka

The Wire February 2003

"Raunio is a reissue of one of Circle's heaviest records, amassing live recordings from 2001 that saw the group radiating a malevolent occult power. These incendiary version of their heaviest calling cards make overt the common aesthetic ground between Judas Priest and Spacemen 3."-David Keenan

"For those of you who missed CIRCLE recently supporting ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE on their last UK tour, here's the consolation prize! A perfect companion to the recently released PROSPEKT. For the uninitiated, Circle produce high quality driving rock - inspired by Krautrock, space rock and psychedelia. Occasional screamed vocals in their own 'language', layer upon layer of improvisation build over repetitive trance-like riffs - heavy metal mantras! Can and Bruford-era King Crimson spring to mind, nowhere is this more ably demonstrated than on RAUNIO LIVE. Subtly opening with some refrained electronics over a light percussive beat, a wave of feedback gives way to some tasteful electric piano and some ghostly Nordic chanting and whispering, the chanting becomes more manic giving the impression of a Medieval version of 'Silent Way'. The electric piano motif continues into 'Alotus' over Jussi's bass and Olli's drums before - wham - we're in the middle of a Circle Sound fest - percussion explodes, twin guitars and keyboards burst into the air, your speakers nailed to the ground by a solid bassline. The album blows between Nordic ambience and controlled chaos - it's only during the almost freeform madness of Poto, the album's climax, that Circle are pushed to the edge of the musical abyss with a live collage of industrial electronics and grinding freakout guitars. Unlike PROSPEKT, with its clean sharp Nordic production values, this catches Circle at their rawest - RAUNIO LIVE is an excellent addition to the Circle listening experience."-Nigel Pennington 2/21/03

"The Scene: Bizarre, hymn-like lyrics that are totally incomprehensible, wide-reaching soundscapes that are frequently just as sweeping as they are simply haunting, and sounds that obtain this sort of presence by just being simple and to the point. Sigur Ros? No. Let's cut to the chase‹Circle's Raunio is everything that Sigur Ros would want to be in a live setting, thus one-upping everyone's buzz-favorite Icelandic quartet. Don't get me wrong‹Sigur Ros aren't a bad band, especially within the studio, but it's pretty easy for them to fall prey to the hype. Circle, on the other hand, is perfectly content to dwell within the corners of the international musical landscape and continue to finely hone their craft. Raunio is a live document culled from three shows in late 2001, and it sets out 10 well-crafted tracks that perfectly accompany the disc's muted photographs of the Finnish countryside. It is almost as if the band has found a way to write, perform, and record the sounds that the evergreens and high, snow-peaked mountains could indeed create had they the ability to project own sounds.

Upon first glance across the CD's liner, it comes as a bit of a shock to see that only three of the album's tracks exceed ten minutes. Most clock in at around the five to seven minute range, ample time for the band to create one mood right before they shift the listener into yet another direction. One area where Circle excels is in the juxtaposition of sounds. For example, within the first few minutes of the opener "Raunio I" the band shifts from a tonally high and loud guitar assault immediately to an understated light guitar/key combo over deeply monastic vocal chants. The result is quite mesmerizing, only to become more enchanting once drums and additional rhythm are introduced with "Alotus." From track to track, the sounds are all seamlessly intertwined and the disc really comes off as a unified whole. There is the driving rock of "Kultaa" as much as there is the distorted pulsing of "Potto." All sorts of sounds are represented fairly and evenly.

Circle's music isn't earth-shattering but it is well-crafted, highly engaging minimalist drone and riff fare. Everything that they throw into their arsenal is well-honed and squarely hits the mark. There are moments of driving, rhythmic rock, Ash Ra Tempel-esque repetition and vocals that alternate between frightening and ethereal. Circle offers a concerted space where simple tones and tricks lead to a highly hypnotic whole."-Cory Rayborn


"Arising from the Pori, a Finnish port on the Baltic Sea, Circle brings to mind the remote and frigid Arctic Circle both in name and in the minimalistic and hypnotic rhythms. They augment their sonic repetitions with hymn-like chanting (more sinister than spiritual) in 'incantations' written in their made-up language of Meronian. Just before this release the group did a John Peel session, sure sign they are at the peak of their powers. This is actually a reissue of a release on the Ektro label out of Finland, now getting greater distribution through Surefire Distribution. A 12-minute bones track is included: "Raubonmix". The potent ensemble surges and recoils their music with alternating waves of tension and eerie serenity. (4.5)"-Tom Schulte



Copyright 2004, Squealer Music.