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Album Review: The Circus – Bats

Delhi experimental rock band continue to bend genres and convention

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Mar 06, 2013
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The Circus Bats album artLike a lot of Delhi bands we’ve seen live, The Circus is no different in keeping their crowd interaction to a minimum. On stage, each member of the four-piece band is an island unto himself, shoegazing from the start to the finish. Guitarist Arsh Sharma is the bespectacled noisemaker stomping pedals and vocalist Abhishek Bhatia twists and turns knobs on his vocal processor to tune into the same frequency.

Their second album Bats is as insular. The themes remain abstract including the title track about flying mammals that spew poison plus a few standard subjects such as sex [“7 by 8”] and drugs [“It Feels Good When The Medications They Kick In”]. “<Insert Name Here>” is the only track that is a surprising breakaway from The Circus’s unusual routine. Settling down with an acoustic guitar for a slow, half-haunting song with cryptic lyrics [“Breathe out/Inside I know”], they probably leave themselves a bit exposed compared to the other eight tracks, which are heavy, absurd and trippy at once.

The tones, effects and style on Bats are similar to their first album From Space [2010]. If you’ve listened to From Space, Bats will feel like a tandem ride. Else, expect to feel like you’ve been thrown off a cliff with absolutely no idea why this is happening to you. The Circus not only does away with the rulebook, but proceeds to tear out the pages. The walls of fuzz and modulation close in on songs like “Bats” and “Poxilation Chickachaemia” while “Gardens” and the first single “In This Laboratory There Are No Rules” include blistering metal riffs from Sharma.

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Psychedelic, progressive rockers are given to self-indulgent musical ramblings that often don’t justify the length of a track. Songs on this album cut to the chase with three to four minute-tracks that make for quick fix progressive rock. Of course, The Circus too give in just once and needlessly stretch out “It Feels Good When The Medications They Kick In” to six minutes with repetitive riffs. By this point, you’re already well-familiar with their instant-prog rock that this might actually seem boring.

The absurdity in Bats works because the band is on top of its game. Most significantly, the album is a well-crafted piece of music. The Circus fuse, destroy, warp and modulate to find their way into a league of Indian bands that aren’t afraid to experiment.

Key tracks: “In This Laboratory There Are No Rules,” “Bats,” “<Insert Name Here>.”

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