Track By Track - Circuline - Counterpoint

By John A. Wilcox

I love this band! Circuline play wonderful symphonic prog. Great playing, strong vocals. They're quickly making a name for themselves around the world, and deservedly so! Keyboardist Andrew Colyer and drummer Darin Brannon take us track-by-track through their sparkling 2nd album...

Track 1: New Day
AC: This song arose from a jam with Bill Shannon, Darin, and myself in the summer of 2015. When Bill left the band, Darin and I arranged and sculpted the jam into the final song you hear on the record. When I found out that NASA had space sounds on their website, I downloaded a bunch of them, and spent hours painstakingly going through everything to craft the sound design and effects for the final version of this song. Randy McStine added five tracks of guitars to come up with some really awesome sound effects. Paul Ranieri nailed his bass part in one take. Beledo actually came up with a beautiful solo guitar part that you will hear on the live versions of this song.
DB: The keyboard and drum tracks you hear on the record was an improv of the idea that came together with Bill, Andy and myself. Andy and I just sat down at our respective instruments, hit record and went for it. There are sections that we veered from the original jam session and through some sort of symbiosis, we were able to move through the variations in the theme and wound up ending at the same time!

Track 2: Who I Am
AC: Darin and I worked hard at crafting this one. While we promote ourselves as Modern Cinematic Progressive Rock, the people over at have classified us under Crossover Prog, which we are really happy about. While we definitely are a progressive rock band, our connections to popular and classic rock, classical, jazz, and movie soundtracks is hopefully something that will help us to reach a larger audience outside of the strictly Prog community. The main riff and chorus chord sequence is something I came up with while Darin and I were going through sounds, patches, riffs, etc., and I immediately heard it being played by a guitar player, with a heavy rock sound. We chose Doug Ott to guest on this track, because we've seen Enchant live before, we have some of their albums, and we know that he can really bring it, when we need the song to rock out. Billy, Natalie, and I worked to craft the vocal arrangements based on the vocal guide track and lyrics that Randy McStine gave us.
DB: This song was probably the most difficult to get down as far as recording basic tracks. The feel for the song didn't happen right away. After we recorded the demo tracks, Andy and I were debating on how to piece it together and what the approach should be for each section. When Paul joined in during the actual basic track recording session we finally got it down. The intention was to break apart the verses and bridges by introducing the rhythmic section between those sections. And it doesn't hurt to end the song with a traditional rock, strong vocal chorus with a wailing guitar lead.

Track 3: Forbidden Planet
AC: The intro to this song is played on a ROLI Seaboard. I was one of the first people in the world to put a down payment on one of these instruments, at the 2014 NAMM show. It finally shipped to me in November 2015, and I was very excited to use it on this album. Writing the vocal sections of this song, the intention was to write a power rock ballad, and will be the first official video we release, with a radio edit version available. The ending is a cinematic orchestral rock epic in seven. Alek Darson did a great job as our guest guitarist. Billy, Natalie, and I worked to craft the vocal arrangements based on the vocal guide track and lyrics that Randy McStine gave us.
DB: We recorded this song without having the vocal section written. My approach on the drums were to treat it like a Genesis song from the album ...And Then There Were Three (at least my interpretation of that record). At least that was what was running through my mind at the time. I really wanted to take the approach of over playing the drums a bit on a power ballad. And in true Prog Rock fashion we nestled the ballad in between a very cool ROLI intro and then a thunderous section in . at the end.

Track 4: Hollow
AC: The middle section of Hollow is something Darin and I worked very hard on. I had improvised and recorded a new bit in seven, with the weird syncopated lines and the double octaves concerto like run at the end. Darin had actually had a dream about doing something in a complicated meter (which he will explain below). When I started playing the new thing I was working on, Darin started suggesting how to change the pattern to match what he had dreamt about. For the vocal sections, we worked together to write something that sounded cohesive. The instrumental section at the end was Darin's concept. I used the ROLI Seaboard, layered with the guitar tracks. We kept crafting the bits until everything came together. Alek Darson turned in another awesome performance. Billy, Natalie, and I worked to craft the vocal arrangements based on the vocal guide track and lyrics that Randy McStine gave us.
DB: The vocal sections of this song fell together musically very quickly. I like the anticipation feel these have. During the bridges we start anticipating every beat in the measure, and then that leads to a more straightforward rhythmic chorus. The first instrumental break is something that Andy and I devised through me dreaming about the timing and Andy have an idea for the actual notes. We worked on this part a great deal. The intention was to keep playing the riff over and over but changing the instrumental arrangement to make it sound a bit different in each section. And then interrupting that with piano breaks and accents in 7 and then bringing it back to the vocals. The ending instrumental bit came to me while I was noodling around on the keyboards during a writing session. I liked the . waltzy groove. But I also wanted to space the accents out differently to keep you off guard. So the first time you hear the part it's kind of abstract and then when we reintroduce again it settles into the groove rather nicely.

Track 5: Erosion
AC: Most people don't know this, but Darin is a pretty good keyboard player. This track is Darin and me being creative and having fun in the studio, both exploring sounds and playing keyboards. What you hear is a captured performance while we're both playing at the same time, improvising and watching each other. No editing was done to this track.
DB: What can I say? Studio magic of sorts. Completely off the cuff and live...

Track 6: Nautilus
AC: This song started with a bit that Bill Shannon brought in, in the summer of 2015. When Bill left the band, we liked and kept some of the parts, and rewrote the rest of the song. The synth solo came out of a jam that Darin and I were doing with bassist Paul Ranieri. The song was originally supposed to be a bit more straight, but when we realized that the vibe from the jam session would work with this song, we morphed everything into one piece. Ryche Chlanda did a great job with his guitar parts to bring everything together. Billy, Natalie, and I worked to craft the vocal arrangements based on the vocal guide track and lyrics that Randy McStine gave us.
DB: The original idea was brought into the band by the former guitarist. We worked on it a bit before he left the band. We ended up keeping portions of the original bit and then started changing things around. The bridges were a bit predictable at first so we changed the timing from 4/4 to . to get more movement in that section. The guitar/keyboard riffy breaks are good pieces to make the song edge over to the Prog Rock genre. Since we hardly ever do any double time sections, during the last chorus I did change the timing to a double time to get the section moving for the ending guitar solo.

Track 7: Stay (Peter Frankenstan)
AC: I got some tips from keyboardist extraordinaire Frank Wyatt (Happy the Man, Oblivion Sun) as to how he crafts the voicings for his chords. As soon as I started to play them myself, I said, there's the sound! The chord structure for the song just kind of poured into my head in about five minutes. I found a Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel) drum loop that I knew Darin would like and would be able to kill it on for the groove, and laid down the demo. Many people don't know this, but Stanley Whitaker was recruited twice to be the guitarist for Peter Gabriel. Considering that the chord voicings were similar to Frank's, and the groove was similar to Peter's, it only made sense that we ask Stanley to be the guest guitarist for this song. Beledo did a great job playing during the vocal sections, and Stanley turned in a beautiful solo. Billy, Natalie, and I worked to craft the vocal arrangements based on the vocal guide track and lyrics that Randy McStine gave us.
DB: I believe this was one of the first songs from the new record that was written and then recorded. It's a fairly straight forward piece that Andy brought in. He did have it in his head that the rhythmic parts be similar to a Peter Gabriel vibe. Being a huge fan of Peter and Jerry Marotta, it fell into place very quickly. The choruses were a bit of a departure from the rest of the song. Giving it a more modern prog rock simple chords over a 7/4 time signature.

Track 8: S.O.A.
AC: Another Colyer/Brannon improvising keyboards performance moment in the studio, captured for posterity. No editing was done to this track.
DB: Cool samples over awesome chords...again a live and unedited studio performance.

Track 9: Inception
AC: This is definitely the weirdest song on the album. The intro is a three minute bit that I came up with, inspired by Steven Wilson. Darin and I crafted the vocal sections together. The ambient section was Darin's concept. After the big chorus at the end, the sound effects you hear are the ROLI Seaboard, and Beledo put in some Ring Mod tracks. Alan Shikoh did a nice job on the rhythm tracks for the verse and bridge sections, and Beledo did the guitar work for the funky break, the ambient section, and turned in a smoking solo at the end. Billy, Natalie, and I worked to craft the vocal arrangements based on the vocal guide track and lyrics that Randy McStine gave us.
DB: I was sitting at home in front of my keyboard and started playing with weird rhythmic sounds. I came upon the, what I call Rubber Band Sound. Using a drum machine keeping the . groove, I started playing this sound over the groove. There was no pattern I just like the sound and playing it in a more abstract fashion gives it a non patterned feel. Then, I thought, why stop there, with all of that going on underneath why not layer a real nice piano part on top. Just basic simple chords on top of the rubber band sound. We inserted that piece into the rest of this song. What's unique about this song is that it goes from a long intro to the verse to a short break and then a bridge and then the rubber band section and then the chorus. So it's not your typical verse bridge chorus (repeat) song.

Track 10: Summit
AC: Kudos to Darin for the super cool grooves on this song, and for the original concept for the entire ending section. For the vocal sections, the groove was so great that I kept the chord changes simple. Billy, Natalie, and I worked to craft the vocal arrangements based on the vocal guide track and lyrics that Randy McStine gave us. I wound up singing lead on this song, because the cool groove that Darin gave us, combined with what Randy wrote, was a bit tricky to sing, and Natalie and Billy were having a hard time getting it. I went to record a vocal guide track to help them, and that's what you hear on the album. Darin started playing the melodic/rhythmic idea for the ending instrumental section, and I helped to finish it. The duet that you hear between tympani and piano is another captured performance with Darin and me. No editing there. One shot. Matt Dorsey did a great job with his tasty guitar parts. I added the synth solo at the end to bring the song to a climax. We're proud of this one, and it's really fun to perform live.
DB: The vocal grooves on this song was something that just happened during a jam session. The verse groove in particular is a rhythm pattern that I usually play in .. So by adding an extra . note to the groove kind of threw me a bit. The bridges are in 7 and represent more of how I would play the groove normally. We ended up playing the choruses in . because it was a more powerful section that needed the punch that 5's can deliver. The whole middle section was derived from a bit that I was playing during a writing session with Andy. It's true to my usual type of bits that can come out of me. I owe a lot of that style of playing to one of my favorite bands, Pierre Moerlins' Gong. This is the later version of Gong when the drummer Pierre kind of took the band in a more fusion style. It's a true gem of a band, especially for drummers. Lots and lots of excellent kit drumming along with vibes, marimbas, timpani...any tunable percussion...they use it!


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