The memories have grown hazy by now, but I think Circulatory System might have been my earliest entry point to the world of Elephant 6. It all happened around the same time, so who knows. But I remember coming across Matt LeMay’s review of the first CS album, tracking down MP3s of “Yesterday’s World” and “The Lovely Universe,” and being instantly blown away by the uncontained joy in those songs. I ordered a copy of the album and listened to it constantly on my boombox, getting lost in the recurring melodies. That same fall, in rapid succession, I fell hard for Circulatory System’s predecessor band, the Olivia Tremor Control (who became one of the most important bands in my life), along with Neutral Milk Hotel (ditto), Apples in Stereo, Of Montreal, and more. Later, in the spring of 2004, I’m sure I put Circulatory System songs on more than one mixtape for Sarah.
At the time, my favorite E6 bands were on hiatus, seemingly forever. It would be years before I got to see the reunited Olivias play Bowery Ballroom, or stand a few feet away when Jeff Mangum first re-emerged at Le Poisson Rouge. So Circulatory System, for me, were a living connection to a scene that I loved deeply even though I’d missed its original heyday.
With the Olivias defunct again, after a tragedy that still saddens me when it comes to mind, it’s sweet that Circulatory System live on. Their new album, Mosaics Within Mosaics, is really great, and it reminds me a lot of their first LP, still an all-time favorite. I wrote a short take for Rolling Stone, which you can read below. I’m looking forward to seeing them open for NMH (!) at Prospect Park next month. See you there?
For two decades, W. Cullen Hart of Athens, Georgia, has been one of indie rock’s great psychedelic visionaries – recording two cult-classic LPs with the Olivia Tremor Control in the Nineties, then plunging even deeper into the dream with this band starting in 2001. Circulatory System’s third proper album, their best since their debut, is a leisurely suite where kaleidoscopically sweet vocal melodies and folky instrumentation drift in and out of focus, occasionally resolving into songs that you’ll swear you’ve been humming for years (“Do You Know What’s Real?” “Elastic Empire Coronation”). At its best, Mosaics has all the magic of a bedroom-studio Smile.