Despite beginning the recording of the album in the harsh months of January, ‘Circa’ brings to us coastal sounds which burrow under the emotions with it’s evocative melodies bringing us tales of rites of passage. All against a backdrop of atmospheric choruses and pulsing drums.
Longwave Reach introduces us to the bittersweet, confessional concept of the album due to the acute honesty of the lyrics in a relatable tale of losing loved ones. Having tragically lost their original lead singer, Jon Chandler, in a road accident in 2007 The Mojo Fins could have easily gone down a mournful path. However ‘Longwave Reach’ contains more integrity than this as it contains elements of uptempo hope and inspiration with razor sharp guitar work added in intervals. It is this celebratory, yet honest outlook on life which states the intention of ‘Circa’.
The Mojo Fins originate from the bohemian coastal town of Brighton and it’s this sense of freedom that Exhale yearns for. Detailed layering builds up the promise and momentum of the track as Stephen Brett’s velvet vocals betray a vulnerability against the toughness of the beat. Arriving at Introverts we find out why it was chosen as a leading single of the album. Following the confessional theme, Introverts remains an unapologetic explanation demonstrated by a kicking combination of attitude both in the lyrics and synths in what creates a summer anthem with unexpected riffs adding strength and motivation to an otherwise brooding track.
The title ‘Catholic Guilt’ suggests controversy and I was nervous about what I was about to be letting myself in for. Thankfully I couldn’t have been further from my initial expectations. Stripped back, soft acoustics was what was offered, a sound so tender that the movements along the guitar’s fretboard is picked up, offering a gentle stillness. Religious iconography is placed against the sharp language of the lyrics, which although seems out of place, it strangely works against the emphasis of vocal harmonies.
‘Circa’ follows the formula of having a mid-album ’emotional slump’ before rising again in it’s optimism. ‘Arterial Road’ provides this dip for ‘Circa’ with it’s rhythmic, heartbeat pulse emphasizing the stress of modern living with melodic pianos aiding the storytelling. If ‘Arterial Road’ was the emotional slump, then ‘Grass’ provides the upbeat, cooling summer breeze building the momentum of the album back up again with Adam Luke Atkins’ heavier focus on guitar. This flows smoothly into Black Sun with it’s heavy use of drum machines creating a tangible, searing heat. ‘Where Black Sun’ brings us the lazy comfort of long, hot days with a danceable tempo, Friends directs Circa into the shade with another tale of loss accompanied by simplified harmonies. Contrasts between life and death with the journey that is between the two seems to be a recurring theme throughout the album, so perhaps it was a deliberate move placing ‘White Heart Beats’, a song of hope and optimism, to directly follow Friends?
‘Circa’ succeeds in creating a haunting soundtrack to the unavoidable rites of passages and in doing so asks questions that are impossible to answer. The album closer, ‘Hands of Flashing Light’ ties the concept up neatly. It bides it’s time in a gradual layering of pianos and drums before an explosion of light in the chorus, creating a climatic end in a passionately honest album which is beautifully harrowing.
Nicky Lee Delisle