o one of you emailed me a few weeks ago and said “Hey, I like a lot of the music you seem to like; maybe you’d enjoy checking out this band.” So I opened up their website, heard a couple of tunes, thought they sounded interesting, and fired off an email to them asking for a copy of their album to listen to and maybe review. And here is that review. (This is how it works, guys. Seriously. Fill the comments box in this review, and every review, with recommendations.)
5th Projekt are just that—the fifth musical project that the various members of this Canadian group are involved in, the others being various and sundry bands, ensembles, and “digital music collectives” (what does that even mean?). They're a rock band—specifically a big, cinematic, prog-inflected rock band—with guitars, bass, drums, occasional loops and processing, and powerful female vocals.
Portentous and pretentious, Circadian often walks on the wrong side of the earnest, proto-hippie bullshit divide. Yes, there are songs about balance, rhythm, and discovery. Yes, there are BIG LONG songs like the environmental conscience epic "One to Throw Away." Yes, there is the po-faced riffing and birth-imagery of "In a Coma" to take into account—but all of this is interspersed with a handful of brief, often delicate instrumentals. The vague obsession with txtspk-derived alpha-numeric song titles and capitalisation feels like trying too hard on occasion ("3IGHT WORD5", "Skepticosm" and "DISTRAKTid" being serious offenders), but when things are a little less conceited and grand it also works beautifully, such as the spiralling control and brevity of "Broken Like This."
The problem is that musically they’re pretty awesome—perhaps a little too good. Everyone in the band can play and play well—on the band's MySpace page they list the band's members as their influences, for instance. As a result there is an occasional lack of the kind of musical character and invention that springs from inability and missed targets—when you can hit the sound you want straight away, there’s no chance of stumbling across something accidentally magical or affecting. Take Tara Rice's vocals: when her voice is slightly more reined-in, she sounds like a pre-kitsch/sex Alison Goldfrapp fronting someone like Secret Machines. But most of the time there's a pervading sense of dramatic artifice: Sylvia-Plath-joins-Greenpeace-and-listens-to-Led-Zep lyrics and delivery.
As you might guess, the album is mixed well too; sharp, detailed, and punchy, with some awesome guitar sounds and occasional dives into full-on organic-electric 21st century psychedelia, where beats, guitars, vocals, and electronics merge. It's a million miles away from the kind of intimate, folky psychedelia that Grizzly Bear trade in, for instance, but for a big, enveloping rock thrill 5th Projekt have a much more inviting sound than the overblown, overfussy, confused, and completely unreal mess that Muse churn out.
The thing is that I can’t decide if I like this record or not. It’s certainly well put together by people who seriously care about what they’re doing, but the occasional overwrought bombast of both lyrics and music can induce a healthy cringe or two—the amount obviously depending on how much you enjoy wheeling round the room with your best air-guitar and “meaningful” facial expression. Oh, sod it—CiRCADiAN (to give it the intended capitalisation) is a big guilty prog-rock thrill.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2006-09-18