Circulatory System s/t

[Cloud Recordings; 2001]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: indie rock, indie pop
Others: Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, the Beatles

Okay, I admit that I'm not a huge Elephant 6 fan. The only album I deem truly brilliant from their catalog is Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which has yet to be challenged. The rest of their catalog is mediocre at best.

So what does E6 have to show for 2001? Well, there was the disappointing Major Organ & the Adding Machine release, which I forgot about until writing this review, and Circulatory System. Though, not nearly as bad as Major Organ, this self-titled debut is certainly not brilliant by any means.

Circulatory System is the evil twin brother of Olivia Tremor Control -- minus Robert Schneider and Bill Doss (The Sunshine Fix). Fronted by William Cullen Hart, Circulatory System take Olivia Tremor Control's basic structure and dip it in a darker, moodier fluid. The same catchy melodies and trippy music coat pretty much every song, resulting in a repetitious and somewhat boring ordeal.

Most E6 releases are plagued with insipid experimentation. So one positive difference between Circulatory System and Olivia Tremor Control is that the taped-loops and other fucked-up farting is no longer here. There may be an occasional blip or two, but for the most part, the weird-noises-just-to-have-weird-noises are used tastefully, or not at all. I mean, I enjoy the occasional flatulence every now and again; but just like in real life, the surprise is lost when it occurs so often, and what's essentially left is the smell.

Though, I have to admit that it's not easy to come up with catchy hooks using the same formula, but somehow Circulatory System's melodies-- by their standards-- are surprisingly fresh. And their transitions between the vocal sections and instrumental sections are unique and always unexpected. Although it may take some time before distinguishing song from song, there are a good batch of smart and interesting tunes.

But one element that bugs me about their songwriting is that The Beatles immediately spring to mind. Maybe it's the simple pop melodies? Maybe Hart's nasal-y vocals? The guitar tone? The harps? The production? The same bouncy tempo? Maybe all of the above, but each song sounds like a blend between "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and "Blue Jay Way" shaking hands with "Within You, Without You." And with 20+ songs, would it hurt to change the tempo and dynamics a little?

No matter how you slice it, Circulatory System comes off as a darker Olivia Tremor Control; and while Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage have treated E6 fans nicely (including myself), the formula has been spread a little thin. Circulatory System is not a horrible album. It just doesn't have enough variation or any type of distinguishing feature. On one hand, this can be viewed positively because you will have a consistent and flowing album; yet on the other hand, it can result in a very boring album -- especially if you've already been deflowered by an E6 band/member/collective.   1.
2. file://localhost/home/u4/tinymixtapes2/html/musicreviews/musicreviews.htm

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