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Dälek and Russian Circles Live in Chicago
Reviews: Concerts | February 26, 2008
The pairing of heavy rock instrumentalists Russian Circles and experimental hip-hop duo Dälek might seem to be a mismatched live bill for genre purists. However, since both groups are known for their intense live shows and for pushing the boundaries of their respective genres, it is more of a meeting of musical kindred spirits. Last Tuesday was the kick-off of a touring cycle that brings the two groups together on tour (along with energetic noise-rockers Young Widows) for series of shows until March 2.
Chicago’s Russian Circles (recently signed to new Seattle label Suicide Squeeze) have been lauded by critics and fans for matching muscular riffs with soaring melodies – and for achieving an almost note-perfect replication of their sound onstage. The lack of a vocalist potentially runs the risk of wearing thin in a live setting – especially in a genre where the frontman traditionally rules. But in Russian Circles’ case, being stripped from vocals and lyrics allows the band a powerful freedom - letting their music supply its own narrative. It was an unusual experience to see concert-goers focused so exclusively on the music itself as to respond to the swells in melody as if it was a singer’s anthem.
Dälek’s Abandoned Language was on the top of many music critics “best of” lists last year, and reflects the duo’s move into an even darker and richer textured direction than ever before. But the collage of distortion that makes the album such a hypnotic listen wasn’t a seamless transition to their live performance, which was intense but lacking in the kind of passion that works up a crowd.
Truth be told, Dälek has never aspired to be party music: MC Dälek’s abstract lyricism paired with Oktopus’s blistering production is pretty tailor-made for basement brooding. And that’s understandable; it’s a challenge for any artist whose sound relies so heavily on ambience to transfer that energy into a performance setting. But while Dälek and Russian Circles both create undeniably distinctive soundscapes, the latter group has found a way to create an equally forceful live experience.
- Photo by Cindy Frey
Russian Circles: www.myspace.com/russiancircles