Odd Circus – DEUS

American art rock trio, Odd Circus, define their music by the depths of their improvisational approach to composition. This band exist to pursue improvisation as an experience that can bring each musician out of their own introverted world and into a higher state of collective consciousness. Few artists outside the free jazz scene dare to push their experiments this far without fear of failure. After all, there are only so many smooth open hi-hat beats and circular bass lines you can rotate until the song breaks down into an aimless rehearsal captured on tape for the world to dismiss as self-indulgent. Is it any easier if you’re a rock band with no guitarist and no singer?

As the third EP in a series taken from a studio session in June 2020 – and following on from May 2021’s Mantha and June 2021’s Arch NovaDEUS continues the band’s fascination with eerie krautrock and dark psychedelia. That means they often hint at a sinister eruption of mind-altering proportions but use restraint as the tool to keep you engaged. Opener, ‘Tyrant’, parades a groove rock beat and damaging bass fuzz before your eyes and threatens to unleash a saxophone frenzy that never arrives. It’s like saxophonist, Graham Robertson, has his lips poised to squeal at any moment but decides to subsist on the classic circular breathing technique to keep you in suspense. They appear to have no guitars in the mix, but the pedal effects and ambient amp noises suggest otherwise.

‘Braggart’ will remind you of Boris in the way Odd Circus use a repetitive beat and unfulfilled melodies to soften your chin caresses. Again, you’re not sure if that’s a sax in the background lurking like a domineering shadow against a white edifice. Only on ‘Charmer’ does the brass instrument introduce itself with an exploration of the Phrygian scales. You fear that the beats and melodies will wear off like a drug that can only promise temporary respite from life’s ills rather than a long-term solution to them. The careful upstrokes of the bass on ‘Damager’ reverberate like a subtle warning in the distance. Things might not be as they seem. A channel of amp feedback confirms your unease. Drummer, Partin Whitaker, sees an opportunity to play the art-house film composer by inserting a succession of snare fills into the gaps. How refreshing that they follow this with the flexible bass string manipulations and ambient noise effects of ‘Deceiver’. “Each track captures a character consumed and driven to ruin by their sociopathic vice,” say the band. How poignant. You feel like you’re in the presence of somebody who never knew they had a conscience until something inexplicable sparked an empathic impulse in them.

Though not easy to comprehend, DEUS is an enjoyable experience if you lower your guard and let the music infiltrate your daydreams. Ask yourself if you could listen to a song like ‘Reviler’ on repeat while you go about your daily chores. The snare-heavy patterns and noisy saxophone outbursts create an infinite zoom image for you to walk into in the belief that you will find the end of the horizon. You won’t, but that’s the point.

Progressive jazz-rock built upon the philosophy of improvisation ought to be a recipe for self-indulgence, but Odd Circus show how you can tilt towards the experimental without losing your purpose. DEUS is an ideal palette cleanser to expand your musical education when you’re ready to venture beyond rock and metal. Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, would be impressed.



Release Date: 05/08/2022

Record Label: Good Idea Music

Standout tracks: Scoundrel, Charmer, Manipulator

Suggested Further Listening: Secret People – Secret People (2022), Five the Hierophant – Through Aureate Void (2021), Boris – W (2022)