You can be forgiven for not having heard of CIRCAWAVES, the one man project of… well, nobody actually knows. That’s because the unidentified talent behind Circawaves has so far stayed purposefully anonymous, simply preoccupying himself with creating a set of urgent, anthemic demos filled with so much scuzz and dirt that My Bloody Valentine would have killed for them.
Said demos have been given the 21st Century treatment and uploaded to SoundCloud for the entire world to judge, deride, steal, and attempt to copy. It’s unlikely that much derision will be coming his way though, because as far as the initial efforts of new bands go, they don’t get much more fully formed than the three demos currently screaming from the internet, with their fuzz-laden guitars and searing choruses.
Those with a disposition to be depressingly cynical have probably already assumed that Circawaves must be the latest calculated attempt to win the attention of the music industry by coming on all mysterious on the one hand, whilst freely giving out and publicising their music with the other. However, when we collar him via the web, he tells us that it’s “much easier to be creative when you don’t have the pressure of people knowing who you are.” For him, anonymity doesn’t make sense because of the success of Wu Lyf, but because it gives him creative freedom, and when the tunes being produced are so good, it’s hard to care that we don’t have a name with which to label him. Anyway, he’s almost definitely right: why should we need any more information but the music? Is it really necessary that he should incessantly tweet his breakfast cereal recommendations at us? Circawaves certainly thinks not, and it’s tough to disagree when he’s managed to forge such a strong identity already without cramming useless information down our all-too-eager throats.
Regardless, Circawaves doesn’t have the careerist ambition that defines some anonymous artists. Instead, he tells us that, “I have no intentions. I’m quite content trying to write great songs. I just fancied uploading a few tracks and seeing what sort of reaction they would get.” As a result, everything does feel very organic and authentic, and he’s not even doing badly on the “trying to write great songs” front. I Get Along With You, for example, is driven by a massive buzzsaw riff and yearning vocals that make it sound like the highlight Yuck forgot to put on their album. Meanwhile, the expansive We’re Going is sodden with reverb and hazy hooks, whilst Death And Love is a melodic masterpiece that manages to encapsulate all the dirt and emotion that thousands of Sonic Youth-obsessed bands never achieve.
The music that he’s making certainly seems to come naturally to him, and in fact, it almost seems like he has no other choice. He tells us that he thinks that, “with the type of music I’m making you can get away with not having much equipment. It wouldn’t work if I was trying to make a pristine pop record.” Which, in a concise sentence, manages to sum up most of the current obsession with lo-fi recording. There are constant complaints that not enough overtly political music is coming out of so much social tension in the country, but artists like Circawaves are indirectly protesting against the financial position in which they find themselves by circumventing the music industry and doing everything themselves, for nothing. In fact, this lo-fi aesthetic has even become desirable, as Circawaves acknowledges; he considers using more professional equipment before quickly dismissing it, saying that “that may ruin the whole homemade aspect.”
As far as influences go, we had a few in mind as soon as we heard his music, and when we prompt him, he reels them off with almost chilling precision. For him, “My Bloody Valentine was a starting point”, before moving to “more modern bands, like Yuck, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Surfer Blood.” But, for all the criticisms that music which looks to the past gets, Circawaves’ innovation lies in the fact that he does it all with his own distinct edge, voice and aesthetic. That aside, the believable, heart-wrought quality of his demos sets him apart from the many new bands struggling for recognition.
So, despite his keenness to remain a shadowy figure, pretty soon you will not be able to be forgiven for not having been lapped by Circawaves’ breakwater, because when you can do nostalgia as brilliantly as he has within his first three tracks, heads will inevitably start to turn. Such undeniable quality even makes the concept of ‘progress’ look regressive; at the very least, it’s not required when you have the honesty, verve and excitement of Circawaves.