"Hang on to That Kite" is the second full-length album by Norway's CIRCLES END and is my first acquaintance with their creation. The band has existed since the middle of the nineties, and their previous outings are the eponymous EP from 1998 and the CD "In Dialogue with the Moon", which was released in 2001.
As it is stated in the CD press kit, the album will definitely please fans of Gentle Giant, Camel, Porcupine Tree, Ritual, and Echolyn. I should have said it simpler: it will please anyone into a classic Symphonic Progressive. Besides, unlike the latter band, which is rather heavily influenced by Gentle Giant standing on the same list, Circles End plays music which is free of any influences and, what's especially significant, is the product of genuine inspiration - the very factor, which always provides everything necessary for making a musical work an essential listen. In this respect, "Hang on to That Kite" is on par with many masterworks of the '70s. The CD's playing time does not extend the 'classic' framework of the albums' longevity, which is also a positive factor, especially since there is not even a single theme on each of the nine tracks, which would be, say, unnecessary. Perfect length, perfect music. As implied above, the music is distinctly original. As for how I perceive the general atmosphere of the album on my personal sensitivity level, it appears to be filled with the spirits of both of English and Scandinavian schools of classic Symphonic Art-Rock. The complexity of development of the musical events does not run counter to their beauty (rather, sort of dramatic beauty), and this is what UK's "Danger Money" and Landberk's "One Man Tells Another", for instance, are most of all notable for. As such, the album's prevalent style is presented on Tiny Lights, Red Words, Too Few Feet, Long Shot, At Shore, and Peeping Tom (2, 3, 4, 5, 7, & 8). All of these are songs, and they represent the best of what we can expect from Classic Progressive: lots of interplay between all the instruments involved, an abundance of changes of musical direction and tempo, heartfelt, just strikingly impressive (truly masculine, by the way) vocals which are excellent in both structure and delivery. Organ, electric piano and guitar are the principal soloing instruments in most cases. The passages of classical guitar, interwoven with electric textures, are present on Long Shot. Both diverse and very beautiful interplay between passages and solos of acoustic guitar, solos of bass, and passages of violoncello play a prominent role on At Shore, due to which the song has a pronounced acoustic feel to it. The addition of a guest saxophonist on Echoes (1) and one of the two instrumental compositions, The Dogfather Has Entered the Lift (9), has provided another central direction to these, which is certainly Jazz-Fusion. There is one more track representing a combination of Symphonic Art-Rock and another genre, - progressive Hard Rock in this case, - the remaining instrumental Charlie (9).
This album rewards a few successive listens to completely appreciate it, but you'll be charmed by it even upon the first spin, which always occurs when music is marked by touch of magic, just like in this very case. I find "Hang on to That Kite" by Circles End one of the most sincere, strong and successful Symphonic Art-Rock albums released in recent years. Those interested can have a look into Top-20 (link) of my favorites for the first six months of the year.