Interview with guitarist Mike Sullivan | By Douglas Menagh | Photo by Alicia Armijo
Chicago’s Russian Circles, comprised of guitarist Mike Sullivan, drummer Dave Turncrantz, and bassist Brian Cook, dropped Blood Year through Sargent House on Aug. 2.
Ahead of the new album, the instrumental trio released “Arluck,” a song with intricate and dissonant hooks, search-and-destroy drumbeats, and aggressive basslines. The single is a technically impressive banger that alternates between moments of tranquility and broadly powerful episodes.
Below, Sullivan shares a bit about creating “Arluck,” recording Blood Year, collaborating with producer Kurt Ballou, loving hockey—the game that inspired the name Russian Circles—and what’s in store for the future.Read more
"This is our seventh album," Chicago post-rock group Russian Circles tell Louder of their new album, Blood Year.
As the group stood on the cusp of the recording sessions for the new record, it turned out tackling their seventh album would leave them facing some big questions.
"What do you do when you’ve written seven albums? Do you pull a U2 and make an electronic infused record like Zooropa, or hire KRS-One to rap on your first song like R.E.M. did on Out of Time? Frankly, that’s not our style."
They found their answers in the work of the experimental pioneers who came before them – bands who've carved out their own path while staying resolutely true to their vision.
"We chose to stay the course like Fugazi, Lungfish, or Neurosis," the band say.
The result is a typically progressive, powerful record, that throws together exploratory jams, relentless riffs, bold experimentation, battle cries, as well as the odd "unapologetically straight-forward song". It finds them expanding their sound while building on a back catalogue of genuinely innovative music.
Here, the band talk us through Blood Year one track at a time.
Writing about instrumental music is a tricky task, as you’re trying to read meaning into songs that are inherently textural. In the absence of lyrics, it’s easy to look to recording details to gain a better understanding of where the musicians were, both physically and mentally, during the creative process. While that’s often foolish, in the case of Russian Circles, those facts mean something. Their new album, Blood Year, builds a direct link between the band’s past and present.
Recorded with Kurt Ballou, both at his GodCity Studio as well as Chicago’s revered Electrical Audio (where they’ve now recorded four of their seven albums), Blood Year reunites the band with the producer who pushed them to new heights on 2016’s Guidance. On songs like “Milano” and “Sinaia,” Ballou understands that guitarist Mike Sullivan’s black metal-styled riffing is not meant to pummel the listener, but is meant as an expression of his own introspection. Where lesser producers would bring Sullivan’s tremolo-picked riffs to the forefront, on Blood Year those moments hang back in the mix, showing that as the band move further away from their math rock-indebted beginnings, they’ve found ways to insert their interest in aggressive music without it going into rote or predictable territory.
No song on Blood Year highlights the fact that Russian Circles have been able to build upon their original ethos as much as “Arluck.” Throughout this moving tribute to Matt Arluck, the Sweet Cobra guitarist who died a decade ago, Sullivan builds some of the poppiest guitar parts he’s ever recorded, the kind that are reminiscent of 2006’s Enter, or even his old band Dakota/Dakota. But around the midsection, it gives way to a darker, chug-heavy motif, one that the band always reached for, but never made into something as potent as they do here. It speaks to the fact that, after all these years together, Russian Circles are still growing as a band, incorporating new influences into their sound while still honoring the foundation they first set down all those years ago.
Russian Circles are back with the new album, Blood Year, which will hit fans in full Aug. 2. To hold you over until next month, however, Loudwire has the exclusive premiere of the seven-minute “Kohokia.”
“Kohokia” is the middle track on Blood Year, closing out Side A for vinyl fanatics. The brooding instrumental cut lurches forward with each minute, disorienting the listener with abstract bass lines and ambient guitar work.
Converge’s Kurt Ballou manned the helm for Blood Year, which was recorded at Steve Albini's (Nirvana / Pixies) Electrical Audio with all three band members in one room, playing complete takes together with no click track. This is the second time Ballou has worked with the Chicago band, who previously released a number of records with Brandon Curtis.
Russian Circles, "Kohokia"
Listen to Russian Circles’ “Kohokia” in the player above and click here to pre-order Blood Year. Russian Circles will spend two months touring North America starting in September, so check out the full list of dates below.Read more
(via Consequence of Sound)
Instrumental post-metal trio Russian Circles will release their seventh full-length studio album, Blood Year, this August via Sargent House. The band has teamed up with Heavy Consequence for the premiere of the single “Milano”. Stream it below.
“Milano” is sonically vast, opening with crushing sludge chords that decay and flow through softer minors, spacious breaks, and blastbeat breakdowns. The track showcases the band’s multitude of talents, weaving different styles of metal and post-rock into a six minute, wordless crusher.
Blood Year, due August 2nd, was produced by Kurt Ballou at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, where the band cut its prior albums Enter, Geneva, and Memorial. According a press release, the band has opted to forsake the “divergent musical paths” found on albums like Guidance and Memorial for a more “direct and forceful” collection of songs.
In a different approach than the piecemeal songwriting process of past albums, the band set out to capture the essence of their live show on Blood Year, tracking the songs “together in one room as complete takes without click tracks”. Further guitar overdubs were tracked at Ballou’s God City studio, making for an organic yet sonically expansive recording.
Russian Circles embark on a two-part North American tour, heading out in September with FACSbefore taking a three-week break and hitting the road alongside Windhand in October. Pre-orders for Blood Year are available here, and the full tour itinerary is below.Read more
Chicago-based post-metal trio Russian Circles seem to release nothing but pure, body-moving gold, and their latest track "Arluck" proves once again they dominate the instrumental scene with their unmatched musicianship and songwriting capabilities.
Kicking off with a mighty walloping foundation from drummer Dave Turncrantz, the song quickly opens up into a hypnotizing dance of brain-tickling licks and chugging, staccato riffs. Punctuated snare slams and an unshakeable bass line from the masterful Brian Cook hold down a steady groove while guitarist Mike Sullivan's spaced-out plucking is allowed to explore, leading to an exalted segment where the bottom falls out, drawing focus before bringing back the leaden assault of the trio's combined powers.
Along with this gorgeous track comes the announcement of a new album by the group titled Blood Year, out August 2nd via Sargent House. Pre-orders and digital pre-saves are available at this location.Read more