It has been seven years since Circle Takes the Square gave to us what for some time was thought to be their opus – the post-hardcore classic As the Roots Undo. Now, they return with the first chunk of a grand composition by the name of Decompositions. This first chapter of the first volume, entitled Rites of Initiation, spans an EP that brings us the sounds of old and new, familiar and foreign. Even with so much time since their last recording, the guys and gal of Circle Takes the Square are still just as ambitious, poignant and technically thrilling as we remember them. Rites of Initiation gives us some much needed satisfaction while wetting our tongues for the full-length CTTS have up their sleeves later this fall.
Leading off with the hymn-like chants of “Enter Through the Narrow Gates”, the grandeur of this EP is laid forth like a treacherous path begging to be taken. ‘Bring forth the light!’ shout twin vocalists Drew Speziale and Kathy Stubelek, reigniting the spark of a fire burned bright from the band’s now legacy-invoking As the Roots Undo. Trading prose lines like a two-headed poet, the reintroduction of the band takes a slow, methodical journey through colossal, yet eerie melodies and staggering vocal delivery. Our initial reactions of hope are fruitfully rewarded – the now four members of Circle Takes the Square have forgotten nothing in their years away from us. The brooding, chilling fade leads directly into the maniacal arrangement that is “Spirit Narrative”. Let the title fool you not, as this is a mechanical execution of perfectly sliced riffage with vocals spit in spastic fury. The shortest chunk of the bunch, it is arguably the most reminiscent of CTTS’ math-riffing past and at first listen the most enjoyable of the four.
Yet, in yielding away from bombastic fretwork, we delve into the start of “Way of Ever-Branching Paths”, a nine-minute departure into exploration for the group. Where what we’ve heard already is very much derivative of our memories of the band, this section finds us wading through a journey worthy of its name. In its entire scope, this track is tough to pin down. Bursts of arpeggio leads littered amongst labyrinth-like song structures make this track a doozy even after several listens. Yet, the lost forest eventually yields a final path, bringing us to a chant-like led bridge slathered with beautiful dissonance. While not quite as memorable as a track like “Kill the Switch”, the section brings us plenty of interesting leads for where we might expect this composition to go. Ending on the dark, yet spacey intro of “The Ancestral Other Side”, we venture further into the brooding rabbit hole set up by “Gates”, as the sludgy tempo brings us trade-offs of sharp melodies and vocals against the momentary chants that ground the track with tension. As the track and EP close, the fear and curiosity of slowly brewing melodies drags us closer and closer into quicker tempos and fading noise until we hit the proverbial noise wall keeping us from continuing onward. A curious, yet wonder-filled ending, the questions of where this composition will take us remain largely unanswered. It is however certain we have established the path this band has tread for these many years is very much still alive and well, with many new pieces and approaches to boot.
Without hesitation, it can be said that the progressive depth of this EP makes it a daunting task, but its experience is one that is rewarded with each listen. While lyrically not as connecting and much less flowing than before, the delivery makes it enough to pull something from each journey through the ravaged voices heard throughout this EP. As far as the writing is concerned, the band makes very few missteps in their journey, save for the often wandering nature of “Way of Ever-Branching Paths”. While akin to its name, it feels like a cloudy walk instead of a wandering adventure. Still, the one not-quite-as-good apple doesn’t ruin the bunch, as this EP is strong enough as a whole to portray the journey taken from front to back.
Through four tracks Circle Takes the Square brings us from the wondering mysticism of beginning a journey to the start of what the real path of Decompositions might have in store. Challenging yet thought-provoking in its result, Rites of Initiation satisfies while leaving us wanting something more – a need soon to be fulfilled surely even more so than this.
2. Spirit Narrative
3. Way of Ever-Branching Paths
4. The Ancestral Other Side
Circle Takes the Square (often abbreviated CTTS) is an experimental screamo band from Savannah, Georgia, USA. The band formed in 2001 as a four-piece and after their first two releases they lost a guitarist but gained another in late 2004. What listeners tend to notice first about the band is the loud screaming of both male and female vocals that often function in a kind of call and response. Skillful, chaotic drumming coupled with intense, highly technical bass/guitar work have served to separate the band from most others in the screamo genre. ... read more