Specta Ciera + The Circular Ruins "Middle Distance" CDr
Specta Ciera is Devin Underwood (Boston, MA), while behind The Circular Ruins is hidden no one else but Anthony Paul Kerby aka APK (London, Ontario), the leading mastermind behind DataObscura label and several other projects. His extensive discography since 2002 needs no bigger introduction here (also Nunc Stans, Lammergeyer, The Winterhouse), but Specta Ciera is a rather newer name on the map, although I came across Devin Underwood's name for the first time in the summer of 2011, when focusing on his collaboration "The Vivid Unmapped" with Jacob Newman, released on DataObscura the same year in May. "Middle Distance" (CDr), was released the end of March 2014 and is packaged, as usual for all releases on this sympathetic Canadian label, in a slim poly case. Featured are also subtly elegant graphics by Angela Weiser.
The album unfolds with the title track "Middle Distance", a soothingly floating and meandering drone piece, carefully enriched by various, constantly emerging embellishments, always richly colored, some breathy, some rather ear-tickling, some nearly intangible, but always appearing in authentic harmony with scenic expansions. Calmly immersing intro!!! The 3-minute "Promontory" is intenser, heavily percolated with shoreline sounds and crossing through gorgeously evocative archipelagos. Brief, but very effective. On "Solitary Window", which reaches only one and a half minutes, distant sea waves can be heard and observed, but the center stage is stolen by deeply pensive piano and glitchy reminiscences. Very short, but long forgotten memories are immediately unlocked and hauntingly expressive ambience fills the room. "Falling Into Place" quickly slips into more eclectic terrains, sculpted with assorted peculiarly sounding emergences, although some relieving glimpses can be caught when children's voice samples permeate here and there. The middle part is slightly calmer, while toward the end the piece moves back to noisier soundfields, albeit continuously decreasing into murmured undulations. "Depth Perception" returns to drone terrains, but reinforced by an array of sonic accompaniments, ranging from lushly twinkling to high-tech piercing. Uniquely yearning and reverberating. "Past Tense" incorporates a slightly cavernous feel, but soon harsher drones invade, again augmented by various fragments like tinkles, sparks, groans, stringed tensions or noisy swells. 10 minutes of quite bizarre soundsculpting. "Virtual Image" opens with windy restless drones bridged with trickily arising sonic subtleties and nostalgically permeating picturesqueness. "Gathering Evidence" dives into soothingly floating realms, but too ephemeral, because diverse voice fragments step in along with piano morsels and various, nearly ear-splitting tinkles. But the closing part returns again into pure tranquility, and is hauntingly embracing. "Tesla", with 10-plus minutes the longest piece, opens with cavernous drone, progressing and creating resonating spirals, perforated by crystalline tinkles, enigmatic echoes, dissonant circuits and jarring outbursts. Weirdly mindscaping!!! "Empty Verandah" closes this album and it's another, slightly longing composition precisely merging background monochromatic drift with touching crescendos.
"Middle Distance", nearly one hour long, is certainly an amply flavored joint release requiring deeply perceptive listening, so plug in your headphones and explore this unconventional soundcarving. Always fully ingenious with many rewarding entrances into uncharted drone ambient territories. Immersing, disturbing, transcending!!! Together with this physical CDr album was released at the same time on Bandcamp a digital download only EP featuring 6 additional tracks from the same sessions, entitled "Different Perspectives". And last but not least, both artists have now in the pipeline their new releases. The Circular Ruins "Full Circle" CDr has been announced already by DataObscura, release date in November 2014. And Devin Underwood will return too, with his second collaboration with Jacob Newman, "Sending The Past", on Carpe Sonum Records. So stay tuned, but in the meantime make sure to discover treasured "Middle Distance" recording!!!
Richard Gürtler (Oct 20, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)