Circulatory System, Mosaics Within Mosaics

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 06.24.14 in Reviews

The third album by Will Cullen Hart’s long-running band Circulatory System is a slippery, dreamy thing. With the ambling lurch of its beats and the way Hart sleepily murmurs his lyrics into his home-recording setup, it could be one long, multi-part song. The orchestrations around Hart’s voice, meanwhile, shift slowly but constantly — fuzzed-out acid-rock bass, rippling tape-reversed voices, hushed woodwinds and hurdy-gurdy, bells scraped by sticks, and innumerable sounds that are impossible to pinpoint.

Winsome turns of melody that emerge with patience

The Beach Boys’ unfinished, unfinishable Smile is a major reference point for these 31 tracks and tracklets, and for the way they fit together. They’re about texture above all else, they dissolve rather than ending, and they ultimately had to be assembled by someone other than their creator: Mosaics Within Mosaics was put together from Hart’s finished and unfinished recordings by drummer Derek Almstead. Still, despite the 26 contributors credited on the album — including Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum and Jeremy Barnes — it’s very clearly Hart’s record, a continuation of the suite-of-psychedelic-fragments form in which he’s been working since he and the late Bill Doss founded the Olivia Tremor Control more than 20 years ago.

Given all that, it’s a little surprising that Mosaics Within Mosaics is as tuneful as it is: The other ’60s specter hanging over Doss’s new songs is the George Harrison of “Only a Northern Song,” doubling down on dissonances and repetitions until they sink in as hooks. Almstead’s sequence showcases the set’s most straightforward rock song, “If You Think About It Now,” near the beginning, and reserves its sweetest harmonies for the closer, “Elastic Empire Coronation,” but nearly every piece here has some winsome turn of melody that emerges with patience.