Circle X: A Post Punk Pre-History

Circle X: A Post Punk Pre-History

For whatever reason, it seems as if some of the more difficult, yet interesting and original musics that sprung up towards the end of the seventies and at the dawn of the eighties was as a result of relative isolation. I’ve discussed Cleveland to no end in these terms, but it would appear that Louisville, Kentucky sported a similar musical trajectory. There’s no way that the latter scene is going to match Cleveland’s in depth or importance, but the fact that there’s an increased interest in whatever was going on down there in the blue grass state points to its diversity and quality.

Despite the Endtables being reissued on Drag City –I’m still waiting for a copy, so thanks promo folks – there was a slew of groups in town, all seemingly connected to whatever art school suckers down there attend. In reading about any city’s musical history, there’s always some central, organizing place, person or band. Art School, though, functions in this manner a bit too frequently. Who wants to be around folks with silly haircuts just to have silly haircuts.

Either way, Circle X sprouted from a combination of art school pseudo-miscreants and two then current punk bands – No Fun and the I-Holes. But setting Circle X within the punk milieu, does not just the genre, but the band a disservice. Folks have long associated Sonic Youth and its cohort with the death rattle of that seventy’s genre. And while there wouldn’t have been the same soil from which groups with those notions to crop up, punk’s really not a part of this at all.

No Wave almost makes sense as a genre. But really, a great deal of it winds up sounding like nascent industrial stuff or retreads of Rhys Chatham rave ups. The latter isn’t too bad, but there’s a fine line the gets crossed too often relegating a huge amount of work to just this side of obnoxious – Bush Tetras anyone?

Circle X, though, endeavored to mine percussive ideas prevalent in polyrhythmic African musics. The band’s shift towards an embrace of that style is in part predicated on Circle X moving to France for a few years during the eighties. Encountering a population in disapora might have been achieved in New York, where the group lived for a time as well. But African cum European citizenry has to be drastically removed from those who were able to make it across the Atlantic.

Whatever the case Circle X moved beyond some of the chiming, repetitive guitar stuff that would soon be associated with the early eighties, pushing towards some middle ground between that and whatever DNA could be considered.

The band couldn’t have ever had a hit. And considering the fact that it recorded a full length – Prehistory­ – just after issuing a single in 1980, but not being able to release it until three years later should have intimated to all involved that the band was really an outlet for odd ideas as opposed to a full time job.

Renewed interest over the last decade proves otherwise, but how many of you beardo friends know about these folks?