Cause to Effect - Circumstantial Creatures
The sound of fingers relaxing, clutching cigarettes;
Of instruments left unattended,
Speaking to themselves between songs, like Woody and Buzz, Hatching plans.
This relaxing groove, so far removed from the Saturday-night hooks and bombast which precedes it, strikes down as a lightning bolt ten tracks into Circumstantial Creatures, bringing us inside its confines and offering us a brew. Marmalade - its very title sounds that deeply assonant lurch we embody in our downtime - saunters along, lackadaisical, a jam for breakfast. Then, the crunch, the squelch of phasers and laughter. Welcome, thanks for sticking around, it says before the record moves into its final act.
It’s moments like these which make records but forgetting to include them can tear down even the most awesome constructions. If you made it to this gap in the fence, the chink in the armour of what is otherwise a fairly polished, professional rock record, you are made privy to the mechanics of the thing, the passion which makes it tick. Sometimes the twist is best engineered before the climax.
Circumstantial Creatures is a masterclass in capitalising on structure, in having the right pieces in the right places to create something which is so much than the sum of its parts. Its creators, Wolverhampton’s Cause to Effect, are smooth operators, watchmakers and credible musicians, too, moving swiftly and adeptly from idea to idea, efficiently transferring energy and most importantly, surprising us.
After our breakfast break, the aptly titled Lifeline falls on rejuvenated ears at the point where many albums fall apart. A cyclical, Chic bassline propels it into hearty smash-n-grab choruses infectious enough to have their bones picked and repurposed by Radio 1’s next big thing. The title track itself comes next - an explorative power ballad which threatens to become flat before levelling us with the best outro of the record. In fact, all symptoms of tedium or predictability are quickly and clinically dealt with throughout this hour-plus adventure - it’s the sign not just of talented musicians but of a masterful editor.*
Swinging for the fences is also something these guys do well, and especially so on Seeing is Believing, a track that, thirteen songs in, really puts an exclamation point on their manifesto. Green’s croon is equal parts Puciato and Tompkins**, acting as ambient placeholder and powerful conductor in tandem. It is because of his dynamic delivery that the down-tempo verses of this song and many others on Circumstantial Creatures do not flounder and instead can build effectively back into full-force grooves. In the harder moments, the vocal lines twist and turn, providing a melodic counterpoint to the already-mobile guitar lines, the lyrics carried within them more often than not purposeful, on the nose, emotive, occasionally cliche but undeniably effective.
Introducing a new lead voice as the record flickers out, then, even further justifies this album’s length and the case its final songs have for being included. The penultimate track, Dirt, sees Meddings step forward as singer and inject the record with a noticeable change in tone. A slower, sultry number, it moves at a deliberate pace and showcases a hotter, grittier, Seattle sound, cut through with sharp guitar work and deft melodies. This is the signal that the Circumstantial Creatures is wrapping up, finally cooling down its engines after a discful of motion.
Its finale, The Dotted Line... rewards our patience with a culmination of everything the record has succeeded in so far, but ratchets the intensity up to eleven. More guitar solos, more powerful riffs, more duel vocal theatrics. An almighty send-off. “If you can’t afford to live, our skilled technicians will slice you in half” Green utters before the song’s second verse. It’s one of the most fun and perfectly placed touches on the record and a return to that Marmalade moment of illumination, the idea that making music is first and foremost a bloody good time.
Of course, an easter egg lurks at the disc’s outer reaches, but I’ll leave this, along with the first nine tracks on Circumstantial Creatures, hanging in the air for you to discover***. There are very few albums I’d recommend which stand at fifteen tracks and sixty-plus minutes, debuts - even less so, but this one, released at a time which so desperately needs more honest, well-written alternative rock, ticks all the boxes in style and does it with a deftness for structure which is extremely rare. Although the production is deliberately raw and lacks that“industry standard” sheen which appeals to radio audiences, it seldom matters - the songwriting here is as good as you’ll find anywhere this year, on a major label or otherwise.
More humour, more experimentation and a strong lyrical concept to tie everything together? These are things, along with some extra polish, which could take Cause to Effect to the next level for Round 2. But Round 1 is as it should be, a debut which promises a lot and delivers. Not to be missed or underestimated.
[pause for effect]
Circumstantial Creatures will be released 1/03/2017, available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and Spotify
Like Cause to Effect on Facebook for more information
*T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland is, without question, one of the most inspirational pieces of alternative art in history. It’s also one of the best edited and was, in its original form, one of the worst. The difference was Ezra Pound - a man who wrecked havoc on the poem, mercilessly cutting out its fat in a way that kept its meaning intact but also maintained its challenging length. In the same way, this record feels borne of hundreds of ideas which have been optimally chopped down, sequenced and presented to us.
**Comparisons to The Dillinger Escape Plan and Tesseract I do not make lightly, or often.
*** I chose to discuss the final five songs here primarily because the final third of albums this long is usually what lets them down, either through wearing already tired ideas thin, or introducing new ideas which break the main aim, objective or mood of the record. Double albums are even more guilty of this, to the point where I’m not sure if they’re ever necessary, despite being enjoyable.