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Russian Circles’ Cloud of Uncertainty: Interview with Brian Cook 

Russian Circles are in their element onstage. The trio of Mike Sullivan, Brian Cook and Dave Turncrantz thrive on the chemistry that comes from sharing the same proximal space, building intensity from the physical act of performance. That’s not always easy to do as an instrumental band, but through years of touring and honing that psychic musical connection, Russian Circles have grown into a formidable live presence. If you’ve seen them, you definitely remember it. 

That very fact led to a conundrum for the band once Covid shut down all live music in 2020, canceling their tour behind their then-new album Blood Year and having to rethink their approach to creating something as a band. They ended up doing something they’d intended to do a long time ago, and began to work on their own individual home studio setups, and from there they let the ideas flow—crafting music from scratch, from a distance, but coming together on a common wavelength even without the luxury of a shared space. 

Gnosis, out this month via Sargent House, is a surprisingly physical and menacing album in spite of the distance. It’s the most urgent they’ve sounded in years, capturing something undeniably visceral. Yet for how dark and turbulent this set of songs is, Cook says that being able to work freely and on their own schedule—with no expectations beyond the opportunity to make something—made it unusually satisfying to throw themselves into. 

“Having deadlines and things like that sometimes is a good motivator, but with a record like this where there was no real deadline, just writing for the sake of enjoyment, knowing that the future was a question mark, that’s kind of the way I feel a band should operate or artists should operate,” he says. “I’m not working on a schedule, just doing it because it comes naturally. In a year of a lot of negativity and bleak outlooks, it was this really reassuring and optimistic reminder that we can mix things up, and do things in a way that feels like it’s creating a better reflection of who we are.” 

We spoke to Cook about Russian Circles’ new album Gnosis, capturing live energy via remote files, and personal growth.

Full interview via Treblezine.com

“THERE’S SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR HAVING SOMETHING SOUND GNARLY”: RUSSIAN CIRCLES’ MIKE SULLIVAN... 

“It’s not an ‘Yngwie’ sense of classical,” Russian Circles’ guitarist Mike Sullivantells us. “It’s more symphonic. Especially with layering and looping. You can create something you can hum, that can be stuck in your head – not just thrashing.” 

Clunky genre labels like post-rock, post-metal and instrumental progressive sludge have always done Russian Circles a disservice. There’s a classical feel to their arrangements – just not in the way you might think. Their eighth album, Gnosis, is as crushingly dense and devastatingly emotional as ever, sweeping between heavy, droning textures, pummelling riffs and gorgeous clean passages. 

Their symphonic approach means melodic clarity is essential – throughout all the intensity, the band’s three members are always audible. Mike Sullivan’s guitar, Brian Cook’s bass and Dave Turncrantz’s drums are given room to breathe, both through deft arrangements and meticulous production. 

Gnosis was tracked in two studios. The drums were recorded in Chicago’s Electrical Audio, with Sullivan and Cook playing live alongside Turncrantz’s takes. “I don’t think there were any songs to a click,” says Sullivan of the process. “There’s one that’s synced to a syncopated delay on the guitar, that was it. Compared to previous records, it was more, ‘no click, just jamming’ – just playing what felt good.”

Full interview via guitarworld.com

RUSSIAN CIRCLES RELEASE FIRST EVER MUSIC VIDEO FOR TITLE TRACK OF FORTHCOMING ALBUM 

Russian Circles have released their first ever music video for the title track of their forthcoming LP Gnosis, available next week, August 19th, via Sargent House. The Centerpiece of the album “Gnosis” begins with a slow-build exercise in krautrock methodologies—drones, guitar arpeggios, cosmic synth, hypnotic drum patterns—that eventually explodes into the wall-of-sound bombardment Russian Circles are known for. The accompanying video, directed/edited by Joe Kell, is full of dark imagery driving towards the actual definition of the word “Gnosis.” The band explains: 

“Gnosis is a special song that has grown with us over a number of years. The main theme of the song was reconceptualized so many times that it provided nearly endless arrangement options. It's rewarding to see such a minimal song idea evolve into one of our most dynamic and fully-realized songs to date. 

When discussing a concept for the video, we agreed we wanted cinematic footage of nature and humanity. Ultimately, we wanted the video to feel fresh and inspiring despite dealing with a dark theme. Similarly, we wanted to compel viewers to rewatch the video and get something new from each viewing. Somehow, editor Joe Kell masterfully made this all happen.” 

Gnosis eschews the varied terrain of those past works by employing a new songwriting technique. Rather than crafting songs out of fragmented ideas in the practice room, full songs were written and recorded independently before being shared with other members, so that their initial vision was retained. While these demos spanned the full breadth of the band’s varied styles, the more cinematic compositions were ultimately excised in favor of the physically cathartic pieces.

RUSSIAN CIRCLES RELEASE NEW SONG “BETRAYAL” 

Russian Circles have released a new song from their forthcoming LP Gnosis available on August 19th via Sargent House. Perhaps the heaviest song on the album, Betrayal is a five-minute unmitigated assault and follows the first single “Conduit”.  Both singles show how the Chicago stalwarts have created their most fuming and focused work to date—an album that favors the exorcism of two years’ worth of tension over the melancholy and restraint that often colored their past endeavors. 

Gnosis eschews the varied terrain of those past works by employing a new songwriting technique. Rather than crafting songs out of fragmented ideas in the practice room, full songs were written and recorded independently before being shared with other members, so that their initial vision was retained. While these demos spanned the full breadth of the band’s varied styles, the more cinematic compositions were ultimately excised in favor of the physically cathartic pieces.

 

RUSSIAN CIRCLES ANNOUNCE NEW LP GNOSIS 

Heavy instrumental greats Russian Circles have announced a new LP Gnosis available August 18th via Sargent House. Listen to the relentless first single “Conduit”. Gnosis, their eighth album, eschews the varied terrain of their past works as it razes a path through the most harrowing territory of their sounds by employing a new songwriting technique. Rather than crafting songs out of fragmented ideas in the practice room, full songs were written and recorded independently before being shared with other members, so that their initial vision was retained. While these demos spanned the full breadth of the band’s varied styles, the more cinematic compositions were ultimately excised in favor of the physically cathartic pieces. The album was engineered and mixed by Kurt Ballou at God City with additional tracking done at Chicago’s Electrical Audio. 

The band has also announced a 40 date world tour including US headline dates and EU co-headline dates. Kicking off September 15th in Minneapolis the US portion will make stops in Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, DC, Brooklyn and more before wrapping November 12th for a home town Metro Chicago show. In March of 2023 the band will continue their dates in the EU with Cult of Luna. See full dates below.

Brian Cook : From Torment to Glory 

After his beloved gear was stolen during a recent tour, the bass pedal guru quickly found the music world rallying around his band Russian Circles. 

Through the entirety of his three-decade career, bassist Brian Cook has made a name for himself by delivering brutal and powerfully effected tones while creating innovative music across heavy genres. Based in Seattle, Washington, Cook got his start with his influential mathcore band Botch in 1993, until the group disbanded in 2002. He then went on to form the experimental post-hardcore outfit, These Arms Are Snakes until he was recruited by Chicago instrumental rockers Russian Circles in 2007. As of recent, when he’s not in the studio or on the road with Circles, he’s busy playing in his sludge metal trio Sumac and releasing solo material under the moniker Torment & Glory, whose debut album We Left a Note with an Apology was released back in August of 2021. The thread through all his numerous projects is his distinct playing, his creative riffs, and his wild use of effects, which he expertly hones in ways that few bassists can. His prized gear – including his rare basses, amps, and many obscure pedals – has all been hand-selected throughout his impressive career, which is why he was devastated when he was robbed of it on his most recent tour.

Full interview via earthquakerdevices.com

MEMORIAL AND GUIDANCE REISSUES 

 

Russian Circles ‘Memorial’ and ‘Guidance’ new reissues are now available at Hello Merch and Evil Greed. 

Some vinyl will be on Russian Circles European tour dates and Roadburn Festival. 

Pre-orders and all tour info: linktr.ee/russiancircles

RUSSIAN CIRCLES CHICAGO SHOW MOVED TO NEW DATE 

Due to a hand and neck injury, a member of Russian Circles is undergoing physical therapy and has been advised by his doctor to avoid practicing and performing while he works to address these injuries. Unfortunately, our Lincoln Hall dates fell within the rehabilitation timeframe, so we have rescheduled these shows into one on April 10th, 2022. Tickets for the January 13th and 14th shows will be honored for the new date. Refunds are available if you can not attend the April 10th date. 

Support for the show will be REZN

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