One of the problems that I had with The Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage Volume One was that it was simply too all over the place for me. Granted, I enjoy scattershod recordings as much as the next person, but for me it just sounded like they were trying to do too many things with the disc and the flow of the album suffered because of this. Although Circulatory System technically isn't Olivia Tremor Control (it's actually just a technicality, since the only OTC member who doesn't appear on this release is Bill Doss), the groups obviously hold many things in common, including lead man Will Cullen Hart.
For me, the absolutely huge difference between this album and the OTC one is that this self-titled release by Circulatory System flows like an absolute dream. Even though there are still 22 tracks, including short instrumental pieces and longer tracks that burst out like full-on layered pop masterpieces, everything bridges together damn near perfectly to create a rather majestic psychedelic pop-rock release that runs just under an hour long. With 21 different people involved in the recording, there is always something going on, and most of the time the layers are so thick that it will take scores of listens just to sort them all out (not that you'd want to).
The album opens with "Yesterdays World," which is probably the most straight-ahead track on the entire disc. A gauzy, rock track that layers clarinets, super-fuzzed-out guitars, chimes, and a chorus of many (among other things), it leads off the album with one of the most infectious melodies the disc has to offer. "Diary Of Wood" follows soon after with a rather quiet opening, but launches into thick choruses while the haunting melody in "Outside Blasts" sounds eerily similar to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall."
"Inside Blasts" shows that the group can also create tracks that move in a more melancholy direction. With subtle builds and falls of different instruments (including an accordian, organ, and various stringed instruments), the track moves along with a delicate sound that eventually builds into something almost rolicking, as a fuzzed-out guitar, piano, and tons of other instruments raise the levels a bit. Even though it runs barely two minutes long, the looped, sound-collage of "Now" makes for one of the best tracks on the disc, packing hazy guitars in alongside odd percussion and found-sound samples while Hart adds woozy vocals.
The crazy thing is that the above tracks only represent the first half of the album. As mentioned above, the release is so sonically dense and elaborate that it actually feels longer than the 58 minute running time. While that might sound like a bad thing (and the somewhat similar tempo of many of the tracks tends to lull if attention isn't paid), there's literally something new to hear almost every time that you listen to the album. Despite the ocassional use of nature sounds (birds chirping) and the kids vocals in places, the album is almost entirely free from cheap, gimicky samples as well (which the Elephant 6 groups have sometimes fallen prey to). Moving from melancholy to spectacular singalong, this "debut" disc is a great ride to take.