If Chicago instrumental combo Russian Circles founded a school, their curriculum would ditch the "three Rs"—who needs language arts when your discipline forgoes words?—in favor of a trio of Gs: geography, geometry, and geology. Studied closely, their music revolves around exploring diverse terrain, measuring spatial relations, and stratifying layers. And, yes, Russian Circles rock: at times, quite hard.
On their second full-length, drummer Dave Turncrantz and guitarist Mike Sullivan are joined by Brian Cook (Botch, These Arms Are Snakes) on bass, with Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Minus the Bear) handling production. Randomly sample a segment of any of the six tracks, and a listener could be forgiven for thinking Station was the work of myriad bands. But no, the skittish percussion fills, headbanging bursts of staccato guitar shredding, unsettling dissonances, and extended ambient passages were all crafted by the same players. (The bowed bass and organ drones on "Versus," however, come courtesy of Past Lives' Morgan Henderson and Bayles, respectively.)
What holds everything together, across 43 minutes that seem shorter, is judicious overlapping pitched somewhere between tectonic plate movement and a rapid-fire game of Tetris. Russian Circles don't deal in verses, choruses, and bridges in the traditional sense, instead building songs around succinct melodic cells, elongated textural passages, and mathematical counter- point displays. On the opening "Campaign," repeated guitar figures ripple over sustained notes, like an edgier update of Eno and Fripp's seminal collaborations. The core components of each track are sometimes embarrassingly simple—during one chunk of "Station," Cook plays the same bass note past the point of mind-numbing and straight on till mesmerizing—yet their array changes so quickly and fluidly that boredom is never a concern; this is stoner music with ADD appeal.