Tap-tap. My hands play this keyboard. Tap-tap. My mind soars. My hands play along to the music I hear. Tap-tap. My mind becomes clear. Tap… Oh, hey. I’m sorry. When something makes me feel good, I sometimes have a tendency to think and speak—and apparently type—in rhyme. They’re not pretty rhymes, but when you feel good sometimes, the emotional response trumps the small details. Tap-tap. Hearing “These Hands and This Mind”, the upcoming EP from Circle of Reason, left me in just such a mood.
This band from Southern England, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Simon Osman, guitarist Gary Slade, bassist/background vocalist Sam Cogher, and drummer Andy Milwain, has drawn—to my thinking—somewhat-outlandish comparisons to Silverchair, Muse, Soundgarden, and Deftones, as the five songs on “These Hands…” and Circle of Reason’s previous, three-track EP “A Favour For a Stranger” conjure what might more closely be the musical offspring of Coheed and Cambria and Creed. The material on this forthcoming effort, particularly, consists of anthemic, predominantly major-key compositions that manage to feel upbeat and imply momentum even when the tempos are drastically slowed.
Aside from the notion of epic-ness that seemed to sweep through all I heard, I was equally drawn in by the fact that the music is so well-crafted, so simply together.
Simon Osman and Gary Slade’s shared guitar work is elegant and very precise, both players weaving into and out of seamlessly harmonized complimentary melodies and synchronous rhythmic work to engage in the momentary onslaughts of arpeggiated, chugging chords and picked harmonics that color the set. Starter and single “Don’t Be Still” and middle track (and soon-to-be second single) “Themes Amongst Thieves” are the finest examples of this, the former a straightforward rocker of the sway-with-your-lighter-app-iPhone-held-high variety and the latter a double-time stomper/head-banger in the vein of Porcupine Tree that brashly thrashes its way through its three minutes and thirty seconds.
The kit work of stick-man Andy Milwain is consistent and tasteful, my unabashed favorite bits being the previously mentioned “Don’t Be Still” and slow-and-heavy nostalgia song “Novel”. Milwain seems to prefer stable, in-the-pocket drumming accented by quick, cascading tom fills and sharp, speedy snare blasts to the constant bombardment and verbose, bombastic display common to many Prog-Metal acts. Just another reminder of the refinement of this act: ‘Look at US’. Not ’Look at ME’.
Simon Osman’s voice possesses a warm roundness and—in most places on “These Hands and This Mind”—commands attention. His approach to primary melodies is one of clarity and comfort, and he frequently stays close to home base, most often utilizing just a handful of pitches within his baritone range. Picture if you will a vocally milder version of Hinder’s Austin Winkler. I would’ve liked a little more stretching of that precedent, especially on “Themes Amongst Thieves”, as the intensity and pace of the song demand a little more than the safe sounds Osman chooses; he comes off as a bit lifeless here as a result. His strength seems to be as a balladeer rather than metal-grinder. Fittingly, all the other cuts on the EP are written in something of that template, and his voice serves it perfectly.
Though subtle and largely in unison with the guitars, Sam Cogher’s bass steps up from beneath here and there and sweetens the open spaces on “These Hands…”. Mellow, steady triplet runs carry the verses of “Home” and give Osman’s harmonized vocals (here vaguely reminiscent of Tool and A Perfect Circle’s Maynard James Keenan) something more to stand on while the guitars add a quiet, minimalist mournfulness.
“Sleep”, the closer, drops the curtain on this sonic show with just the right amount of flair. What initially feels like a tip of the hat to Pearl Jam crawler “Release” off of their landmark album Ten—all gently strummed guitar and echoey stick clicks accounted for—builds again to crest-of-the-wave crescendos of arena-rock splendor full of hissing crash cymbals and harmonic highlights before tapering off seconds before it all fades out so that Osman can tell us to “Pull down the shades….”
Set to release Monday, July 29th, 2013 through all digital outlets, “These Hands and This Mind” was a fleeting experience. Even the slowest bits among this collection seemed to speed by. I’m still feeling good, though I’m about tapped out. Almost through playing along to the music that’s hung around in my head, though I imagine I will be again soon. Circle of Reason is going places. Can we say ‘Full-Length Follow-Up’? Please?