I tend to avoid jumping on bandwagons, to the rather stupid point of actually avoiding things that are popular, even if I might like them. So, for instance, it took me a while hearing the Arctic Monkeys‘ single on the radio before I finally admitted I liked it, bought the album, and enjoyed some thoroughly good music. So, when I heard Circulus on the Culture Show a few weeks back, in a report about an alternative folk scene that was sure to be the next “big thing” (something the Culture Show seems all too anxious about finding, for some reason), I at first crossed my arms and resisted, even though I liked what I heard of their music. Eventually, I went to iTunes and had a listen to their two albums. (True to form, Circulus’s website seems to be stuck in the past at the moment, only letting on that they’ve released one album.) The first track (“Miri It Is”) on their first album (The Lick on the Tip of an Envelope Yet to Be Sent) sounded a bit frightening, a bit too medieval, but their second album (Clocks Are Like People) immediately reminded me of those 70s folky-rocky bands on the more whimsical end of the prog spectrum — bands like Gentle Giant and Caravan, or Jethro Tull in their less sarcastic moments — and I like them, so, armed with an excuse to let me like Circulus without seeming to be jumping on a bandwagon, I bought Clocks… I mean, with song titles like “Dragon’s Dance” and “Reality’s a Fantasy”, how could I resist?
Well, I didn’t resist. Before the weekend was out, I’d bought Lick on the Tip… as well and was listening to both in circulation. (Or should that be circulusation?) Circulus mix medieval instruments with synths and modern drums. They’re capable of some real barnstorming hoedown instrumentals like “Bouree”, “Orpehus” and the Doorsy orientalisms of “The Aphid”, while lyrically, that they’re certainly a step or two above “Hit me baby, one more time” is amply proved by the likes of “Scarecrow” (which seems to be about a scarecrow who accidentally sets himself alight and goes running through the night), and the plaintive but uplifting “Song of Our Despair”. “Reality’s a Fantasy” just gets me every time with its chorus of “Reality’s a fantasy… And we live in reality” — there’s logic for you. It seems to be sung through a megaphone, too, which is distinctly un-medieval, but there you go. And then, of course, there’s “Power to the Pixies”, which, I’m sure, sums up their philosophy in one line. (If you’re put off by references to dragons, mushrooms, dowsing, the Goddess, or Trumpton — I think I heard that right — then be sure, Circulus are not for you. They avoid being twee, though, by being so irresistibly funky. Despite the fact they wear pointy shoes.)