Circle Traps: Circle Traps EP

Subeena pushes her Opit imprint into strange territory indeed with the label's fifth release, a self-titled EP from London-based band Circle Traps. The group, a trio, pools the talents of Portico Quartet members Jack Wyllie and Duncan Bellamy with one Will Ward. Armed with samplers and other technological tomfoolery, the three alchemize their drums, saxophone, bass, flute, keyboards, and guitar into a sound that's unusual but not unappealing. On this debut group outing, elements of ambient soundscaping, jazz, and techno work their way into the mix on four originals and a Subeena makeover.

At first blush, “Fjord,” what with its opening whorls of ringing ambient treatments, would seem to have little in common with sounds previously heard on Opit, but then a crisp breakbeat and slithering sub bass surface to reposition the track within relatively more familiar territory. Even so, it's an odd creature, one that straddles two worlds by planting its feet in both simultaneously. Fluttering noises, twinkling music box tones, and even a little bird warble add to the tune's tripped-out vibe, making it unlike anything else Subeena's issued on her label. Even odder is “Bo! Symbol,” which embeds saxophone flutter, acoustic drum playing, and acoustic bass within a heady swirl of processed loops and general wooziness. An organ drone eventually asserts itself as the song's nucleus, around which jazzy trio playing spirals, resulting in an electroacoustic workout that's even weirder than “Fjord.” “Mirrors and Monuments” first dives into a hazy drone-ambient pool and then comes up for air accompanied by a stepping beat pattern and tech-house propulsion, after which a restrained lope gives “Perspex, Glass” a soulful, slow-motion animation that sets the stage for a series of micro-stutters from guest vocalist Cornelia—trip-hop freshened up for 2011. Bringing Circle Traps deeper into a club context, Subeena contributes a “Bo! Symbol” remix that anchors the loose-limbed original with an irrpressibly elastic electro-thump and shimmy. Anything but an afterthought, the version careens wildly, especially when it hits the rumbling coda. The EP's weird and wacky stuff from start to finish but still well worth one's time.

May 2011