Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bad Circus: Sense Of Motion

Imagine watching a muted television screen filled with static. Now unmute. The void is now a sensory overload of white, anarchic noise. In an era where information is a click away, we are clogged with a smorgusborg of voices competing for the coveted labels of “fact” and “truth,” only some of which achieve such status; self-governance is an obstacle and social media is now the static (cue Facebook statuses and Tweets everywhere). Bad Circus alludes heavily to this concept in their first EP, Sense Of Motion, where their mix of sounds and textures blast them into a more experimental realm filled with whimsy and edge.
Formed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Banner Elk, North Carolina in ­­­­2009, Bad Circus sculpted their sound as a loose jam rock quartet, whose muses range from Widespread Panic to Pearl Jam. Comprised of brothers Will and Taylor Smith on vocals and bass, respectively, Gary Addison on lead guitar, and Mitch Heishman on drums, they uprooted from the tranquil mountains and into the hustle and bustle of Raleigh. Thus, Sense Of Motion, is a collaborative effort by all band members to depart from their jam band roots and to explore more deeply the heavier sounds and concepts of the avant-garde realm in which they have established themselves.
As their first EP, the album’s concept alluded heavily to Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451 – set in a dystopian world where television is the main course and books are left on the backburner to char. Sense Of Motion is loaded with samples of frenzied sounds and narrations paralleling the novel’s chaotic world of uncontrollable word vomit. This decoupage of the band’s experience mirrors the collage of sounds and textures through a more electronic medium.
The album’s musical arrangement, with edgier tracks like the rasp-bluesy “Mechanical Hound Blues” and the wispy “Snow Covered Island” is a testament to the band’s departure from their roots and toward something new and visionary. The simple lullaby “Strange World,” a lo-fi track composed of airy guitar strums is a contrast from the epic progressions and digital sounds prevalent throughout the album. Smith’s faint vocals gently croon, “This strange world that I call mine/teaches us to occupy our minds,” as if the perpetual noise from media’s static has drowned out his voice.  Surprisingly, the interludes “Elm City” and “Parlor Walls” were more of a tease than complete, independent tracks, as they both would have added that extra electronica spice to the album’s mix. The fusion of electronic, acoustic, and climactic progressions similar to My Morning Jacket (“Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Part 2”) brings a more futuristic feel, channeling the sporadic sampling of Hi Fi Killers supported by jam roots.
Bad Circus is on the up, as they have a lot of room to play around with different styles and sounds. As a band that is driven to make music their day jobs, these explorers clearly understand that change is the only constant.

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