Rating: 6 / Format: LP / Label: Post Present Medium
Ex-Black Dice and Lightning Bolt man Hisham Bharoocha takes his Soft Circle project out for another ride, his first since 2006’s album of watercolour (for better: lovely, and worse: lightweight) drone pieces Full Bloom. More than anything, it feels like a test-drive: future Soft Circle performances and releases will apparently feature singer Ben Vida on vocals, and on the two tracks Bharoocha contributes to this split LP with New York hippies High Places, he experiments with more beat-driven structures and vocal repetition.
‘Light Bright’ starts off with tribal percussion, shuffles and steel, before building up the layers (vox and all) into one of those crescendos that Godspeed were knocking out at the turn of the decade like dodgy watches. ‘Don’t Just Stand There’s got a lot more presence and at least three more balls: the percussion’s accompanied by wonky, squeezed out FX and the foundation is flattened, heavy bass. The refrain of ‘don’t just stand there’ that dominates the track’s mid-portion is reminiscent of far too many bad house vocals, but the frequencies that surround and engulf it are good enough to compensate.
This split LP is very much a side project, and it shows: the ideas Bharoocha toys with are interesting, but neither track gets it completely right. The 12-minute ‘Late Bloomer’ that High Places contribute is the most complete thing here, refiltering the dreamstates of their excellent past CDs through passages of clunky beats that give way to elegiac loops and birdsong. It’s cool, it’s interesting, it’s nothing the duo haven’t done better before, but the LP’s got nice artwork in the form of a hand-woven selection of photos by the musicians involved, and if you’ve already got Full Bloom and HP’s Thrill Jockey’s albums then you could do worse. For those looking for their neo-tribalism a bit more dynamic, hold off for the new Rainbow Arabia EP.