Russian Circles played a sold-out Red 7 Friday evening in support of their fifth album, "Memorial" on L.A. indie label, Sargent House. Austin was just the third stop on a frenetic, 35 city American tour that concludes March 16 in the band's Chicago hometown. They was just as impressive as the last time we covered Russian Circles at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2009. The trio of Mike Sullivan (guitar), Brian Cook (bass) and Dave Turncranz (drums) turned in a stellar performance with their trademark minimalist lighting (single white bulbs on the floor near each musician) letting the music speak for itself. Their simple visual aesthetic is one many music fans can appreciate.
The heavy, (some say metal) post-rock band performed a similar 9-song set (see full setlist below) they have been playing since embarking on tour to support the release of the new album last October in Europe with Chelsea Wolfe who appears on the title track of t"Memorial". Surprisingly, only three tracks from the new album made it into the setlist. Fan favorites "Mlàdek" and "Geneva" from their fourth and third albums respectively were included. The performance amounted to a balanced cross-section of work from one of America's top instrumental rock acts.
Part of what makes Russian Circles so good are the sum of their parts. The band is extremely tight live. It is hard to determine what is more impressive, Sullivan's layered guitar work, Turncranz's inspired drumming or Cook's driving bass lines. Watching the trio perform it is hard to decide who to look at because the each of the band members are such compelling artists. Musically, Russian Circles can run circles (yeah, we said it) around most mainstream acts. Do not take our word for it. Watch the video we included (left side bar) of an entire performance by the band.
The group concluded the show with a smashing "Mlàdek" and not a soul left the room, urging the band back out for an encore which was an insane "Burial" from the new record. Say what you will about instrumental rock not being radio friendly, Russian Circles proved there is a growing American audience for quality instrumental rock. Frankly we find it refreshing post rock continues to reach successively larger audiences thanks to the growing popularity of similar acts like Mogwai, Mono and Austin's own Explosions in the Sky and my education.
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