It’s a brave thing releasing a live album. You’ve got to get everything just right. Technically, you need to get the playing and recording bang on. But then there’s the energy and atmosphere. You want to capture some magic in the air. If this doesn’t all come together, I think it’s fair to say that your fans and the casual listeners would be better served listening to a studio produced album.
Having said that, there is a definite appeal to live music and the feeling you take away from a gig. It’s something real and in the moment. I’m sure all music lovers have walked away from a show wishing you could bottle the feeling you had while you were there. A feeling that I’d hazard a guess that those in attendance at the Russian Circles set at “Dunk! Festival” would know well.
Russian Circles are a three piece post rock/metal band from Chicago who have six studio albums to draw from. Dunk! Festival is a post rock lovers dream date. These two factors have come together here to make one heck of a live album. This album was originally released in 2017 and pressed to vinyl which promptly sold out. Whilst they are here on tour in Australia, Russian Circles are releasing a second pressing which might give you a clue to the quality that lies within.
The opening track Deficit, kicks things off with a sort of rumble like a train pulling into a station, before we hear four clicks of the drumsticks and the heavy riffs begin. One of the drawbacks of a live album can be the clarity or definition of the sound that is being captured. There is no drama with that here as you can zero in and listen to each instrument in the mix. Even with the rumbling low end that Russian Circles are known for.
One of the highlights for me is the second track 309 from the bands 2011 album Empros. I can visualise the crowd either jumping up and down in time with the opening riff or nodding their heads in unison to this monster track. It ebbs and flows as you would come to expect from a Russian Circles song. There is a point in the song where the band pauses their playing and all you can hear is the buzz from the amps and the foot of drummer Dave Turncrantz keeping time on the high hat. It almost feels like you’re on stage with them.
There are points throughout the album that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it’s a live album. The recording and musicianship is of such high quality. There are fluctuations in timing and tempo which definitely add to the feel and the energy of the songs. It’s a natural thing for music to speed up a little with the adrenaline pumping and I feel like it takes the listener along for that ride. And you do get those timely reminders that it’s a live show in some of the quieter moments as a few whistles and cheers seep through. Having said that, the crowd show a lot of reverence to the band in these moments as they remain quiet and hold the atmosphere that the band is creating.
Rounding out the set is the track Youngblood off their 2008 album Station. It starts and finishes sounding like a jet plane preparing to take off. In this digital age where so many feel the need to present the perfect version of everything for social media, it seems as if there is a bit of movement back towards something that is a bit more real and tangible. Vinyl is well and truly back and we’ve got an amazing live album here that actually sounds like real humans playing on it. And how!