EP review: Circa Survive – A Dream About Death

One-time post-hardcore quintet Circa Survive experiment with the weird and wonderful on A Dream About Death EP.

EP review: Circa Survive – A Dream About Death
Emma Wilkes

2021 was the year Circa Survive metamorphosed. After four years away, the Philadelphia crew relocated to a whole other musical continent for their EP A Dream About Love, kicking away any notion of genre in favour of creating graceful, dreamy sounds that are content to amble in whatever direction they wanted, just for the joy of the journey. Its follow-up maintains the ethereal floatiness of its companion record, but ventures closer to the realms of alt.pop, moodier in some ways, sunnier in others, but consistently more daring. Mostly, it works.

A Dream About Death is a curious listen – it is, at once, simple and complex, dense yet penetrable. Curritiba initially assumes the identity of an elegant, contemplative ballad but sheds its disguise as the distant echo of thumping drums and twinkling synths come in, yet maintains its pace and moods without it feeling jarring. Later, Discount On Psychic Readings has the low flicks of electric guitar strings rubbing up against a dreamy, melodic chorus without any friction whatsoever in a way that feels comfortable yet still unpredictable. There’s something thoughtful about Circa’s experimentation, though it never feels pretentious, but it really takes off when it aims highest. Closing track Buzzhenge is the finest point, blossoming in its back half into a soaring and subtly cinematic climax that sounds nothing if not sublime.

The other feature that distinguishes A Dream About Death from A Dream About Love is, occasionally, it goes experimental to the point of being just a little bit weird. Latenap is padded out with electronics that sound oddly springy, yet the sound provides an interesting change of pace. It’s only on Electric Moose that the band go a little overboard, with discordant 8-bit synths that jar alongside the moody melody (though its darkly dramatic bridge is rather compelling). It’s only a small stain, mind, on an accomplished, challenging release that intrigues enough to attract repeat listens, even if it might not be understood immediately.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Tilian, Chapel, Super Whatevr

A Dream About Death is released February 4 via Rise

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