Brooklyn trio Traveling Circle set a brooding, ominous mood and maintain it all the way through their album Escape from Black Cloud. Their signature sound is dark, echoey, hypnotic stoner bluespunk. Frontman Dylan Maiden’s high lonesome vocals linger and echo, almost in the background, while his similarly lingering, reverberating, minimalist blues-infused guitar rings out over tersely hypnotic rhythms. It’s so far from the blues that it could be from, say, Poland, yet the framework for the band’s simple, deceptively catchy guitar riffs is the old-fashioned minor-key blues scale. The album – most of which is up at Soundcloud – is almost like one long song, a theme and relatively brief variations. The simple yet brutal directness of Joy Division’s The Only Mistake could be one possible prototype for many of these songs.
The opening track, Higher, establishes the pensive atmosphere with a long vamp, followed by The Candlelight Sway, which adds fuzztone guitar over Josh Schultz’s steady, punching drums. Newborn Shadow starts out with distantly menacing, bell-like guitar, then the drums take the riff halfspeed. Likewise, Green Spider morphs from ominous to distortedly snarling and then back again.
Closer is another one-chord jam with up/down dynamics, segueing into The Willow Tree Fair, with its contrasting watery and buzzing guitar lines over Charlie Freeman’s ridiculously simple, darkly catchy bassline. Rock This Feeling picks up the pace – it could be a funk tune if the rhythm wasn’t so four-on-the-floor. Fountains of Time takes the ambience back to uneasy, followed by Conduit Is Closing with its sirening and hissing reverb effects behind the hypnotic guitar and bass. The album ends with Tears from the Soul, building to a shivery peak with distant echoes of Bauhaus. One suspect that the best way to appreciate these guys is live in a boomy room where the guitar and drums can really throw off some otherworldly sonics.