The band Circa: consists of keyboard player Tony Kaye, a former Yes member, and multi instrumentalist Billy Sherwood, who is a current member of Yes. Billy took over bass duties from Chris Squire, whom we sadly lost in 2015. However, mister Sherwood provides the lead vocals and guitars instead of bass on the band's fourth album, named Valley Of The Windmill. Rick Tierney is providing the bass guitar parts, and Scott Connor does the drums and percussion.
OK, the next question is an obvious one; does the album sound like Yes? No... Well, not too much, in my humble opinion. I reviewed Anderson/Stolt's Invention Of Knowledge (see review) not so long ago, and that sounds a lot more like Yes than Yes ever did the past few years. This album from Circa: is actually more my taste, an album which I already liked during the first spin, and the more I played it the better it was! The album is 52 minutes long and contains four long tracks. I'm always a bit apprehensive when it comes to long tracks. Some bands try to look 'proggy' by making long songs, while the long songs are actually more interesting when they were shorter, and less filled up with meaningless passages purely to stick things together. With this album this is absolutely not the case! There are no boring moments in the tracks, everything is done well considered and fused.
First track Silent Resolve starts very ambient-like. After one minute the song changes with an organ solo, and not much later the complete band joins in. The song carries a positive and catchy vibe most of the time. The bass is very present at times, which I quite like. After five minutes I hear a Yes influenced moment. Several musical passages and choruses that were present in the first part of the song come back from time to time, making this fifteen minute track a good prog rock song. Empire Over starts with an 80s sound, thanks to the drums and keyboard sounds. This track sounds gloomy compared to the previous one, but carries a lot of energy, and the choruses make the song lighter in tone. The drums are vigorous and fit well in this. Title track Valley Of The Windmill is my favourite track on the album. The intro rhythm and low bass sounds very contagious. Just like Silent Resolve it carries a positive vibe. Our Place Under The Sun is with almost twenty minutes the longest track on the album. There's a lot happening already in the first part, and you can say that there are some Yes influenced moments here and there, but not too obvious. Around six minutes the song gets calmer and more retained. Some passages in the music come back from time to time, just like Silent Resolve. After twelve minutes a long instrumental piece sets in, which gets an unexpected but surprising turn after one minute. After sixteen minutes into the track the main theme of the song comes back to wrap up this long musical piece.
This album gets five out of five stars from me. A well-produced and well-fabricated album that doesn't bore one minute and really deserves the term 'progressive rock'. Will this album be in my top 10 list of 2016? I think it definitely will, unless a lot of bands/artists I adore suddenly produce splendid albums before the end of the year.
***** Iris Hidding (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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