The Circular Ruins is: Anthony Paul Kerby. Born in England, Kerby now resides in Ontario, Canada. Kerby derives the name of his performing identity from a short story by the deceased Argentinean writer Jorg Louis Borges, famed for his labyrinthine and metaphysical imaginings.
With sonic influences like early Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, various Fax Records releases (Pete Namlook, et al), Biosphere, and Stravinsky, electronic newcomer Kerby has forged an evocative style that fuses minimalism with edgy dynamics, producing groove ambience.
Interview with Anthony Paul Kerby
Q: What prompted you to break convention and blend ambience with more forceful electronics?
KERBY: This was not really a deliberate move on my part. The Circular Ruins grew out of a number of musical influences, ranging through the sequenced works of Schulze and early Tangerine Dream, the delicacy of ambient Eno, various rock and psychedelic bands, to more recent minimal and often bizarre experimental works that I was discovering on the web. I should add to that many years of playing guitar, which no doubt accounts for the synth leads and a certain intensity found in many TCR tracks.
When composing, I naturally head towards what I perceive to be an interestingly complex and aesthetically satisfying blend of rhythms, timbres, ambient pads, leads, and subtle effects, such that repeated listenings may still yield something new and intriguing to the listener. I make no conscious attempt to position myself on any map or in relation to any particular style of electronic music.
As you might guess, I'm generally a little more at home in the European Namlook/FAX camp than I am in the North American space or tribal ambient traditions.
Q: Who do you perceive as the optimum audience for electronic music in general?
KERBY: I'm really not sure. The difficulty comes partly from the variety of electronic music out there : from pounding dance, to laid-back new-age, to glitchy experimental. Each of these may draw a different audience -- both in terms of temperament and age. Certainly though there seems to be a common thread of disillusionment with the commercial pop scene.
Q: What was the last scientific discovery that made you go "Wow!"?
KERBY: That would probably be cold fusion. Shame it was bogus.
Of course, as we all now know, science, from the ancient Greek atomists on up, has been slowly progressing single-mindedly towards a unitary goal : the development of a recording and sound manipulation device that is small enough, powerful enough, and cheap enough to set up in every home. And lots of recent software for that device has certainly led to serious Wow! responses from me.
THE CIRCULAR RUINS: Confluence (CDR on In the Bubble)
This CDR release from 2002 features 67 minutes of elegant electronic ambience.
This music balances a lush blend of electronics (whirling crackles, pulsating tonalities, softly surging atmospheric textures) with environmental sounds (distant birds, nearby insects, gurgling streams, the basic mood of a meadow). The "elegance" comes from Kerby's tendency to immerse those natural sounds in a pool of glistening artificiality, drenching nature with synthetics in his efforts to evoke a terrestrial soundscape. This dominant electronic flair never overwhelms the presence of Mother Nature, but acts in confluence with such pastoral elements. This balance excellently succeeds in generating melodies that are more-than-passive, but never overt.
Although this music is generally ambient, some passages employ delicate electronics to create soft rhythms, intertwining these artificial quasi-beats to produce engaging tempos that remain tastily immersed in the atmospheric flow.
While Kerby's sonic palate is often more strenuous than that employed by most conventional ambient artists (one might even call a variety of the sounds he uses "gritty"), his application of these harsher sounds remains steeped in a luxurious reverence that forces this harshness into a comfortable union with his more pleasant overtones. This fusion of the two extremes results in a unique yet relaxing style of calmly dynamic contemporary electronic music.
THE CIRCULAR RUINS: Realm of Possibility (CD on Databloem)
This CD from 2002 features 71 minutes of relaxing electronic music with an edge.
Pulsating foundational textures flow beneath mutating cyclic electronics. Blending sounds mellow and potentially harsh, this music achieves a riveting trance state that borders on subtle energization, infusing the audience with tension while soothing with atmospheric sensibilities. Crescendos are reached without undue hue and cry, sneakily building from sedate pools into surging torrents of electronic intensity.
E-perc is periodically utilized, motivating the grinding electronics with unhurried rhythms. This mixture of ambience and tempo is one of Kerby's most engaging tools, producing soundscapes that seethe with a staid dynamic. His predilection for contrasting elements creates a subconscious wonder in the audience, leaving the listener uncertain what will happen next. In this realm of sonic possibilities anything might transpire--well, almost anything, since there are no abrupt outbursts or aggressive tendencies here. Mildly turgid potential is predominant, lifting passive threads to dizzying heights.
Whether exploring an "Ancient Island" or "A Language for Shadows", Kerby's compositional skills flourish, elevating the tuneage out of atonal drifts and plunging the tracks into melodic streams that slice through stone as deftly as they course through the air.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Collection 1: Opening (CD on Databloem)
Databloem exists as a locus of exposure for artists around the globe and as a place of dissemination and germination for the spirit of creative and expressive electronica.
This 78 minute collection release from 2002 features previously unreleased tracks of uniquely enjoyable electronic music by:
The Circular Ruins (from Canada): "Aperture" takes the listener on a voyage into a realm of surging electronic pulsations rich with tempo and melody. Soft tonalities are punctuated by shuddering rattlings and growling sweeps of mechanical birds. Sinuous beats coalesce, injecting the tune with rhythmic guidance in conjunction with the steadily increasing complexity of the composition.
Mutagene (aka Alexis Glass from Japan): "A Borrowed Skin" is a more sedate, almost meandering track of drifting electronics and clicking effects that slowly converge to establish definite structure with languid passages of astral ambience. This music comes from the Canadian feature documentary "Ironson", directed by Cousin Chang.
Spheroid (aka J. Wolfgang Rottger from Germany): "Imbedded Neptune" is achieved with carefully applied atmospheric tones crashing like a surf of turgid gases across a distant landscape of frozen characteristics. Cyclic melodies of passive dynamics emerge from this vaporous miasma.
Kwook (from Australia): "Kwookyworld" transports the audience beyond the stratosphere, plunging through nebulous regions of cosmic sounds to reach a realm of surging riffs that spin and twirl into sequenced patterns of gleaming consistency. This slowburn mood increases intensity with each passing loop, striving to attain an explosive critical mass that always remains just beyond reach.
The Civilized Electrons (from Sweden): "Encounter (in an Unexplored Nebula)" is a calming dose of ambience that defends its unhurried structure with placid outbursts of gurgling particles.
Otherworldliness is a common element among the pieces on this collection, as each track explores celestial aspects beyond our atmosphere, giving electronic musical identities to the wonders of the universe-at-large. Given an average of 15 minutes of length, these tracks are superbly afforded the opportunity to evoke these extraterrestrial studies.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Portraits (CDR on In the Bubble Music)
This 57 minute release from 2002 features previously unreleased tracks of mellow electronic music by:
Saul Stokes: "Iris My Observatory" blends drifting tonalities with pleasantly paced rhythms, generating an ascent through clouds into a region of sparkling grittiness.
The Circular Ruins: "Camera Lucida" creates the impression of a melodic testing of an interstellar space drive, with passive squealing and energized pulsations evolving into a sedately beat-driven voyage through astral strangeness.
Christopher Short (from Ma Ja Le): "Transmissions for Dawn's Color Music" blends cosmically sustained guitar with languid percussives of a quasi-mechanical nature, excellently capturing the interplay of morning light as it travels through the branches of a crystalline forest.
James Johnson: "Nightfall" captures the end of the day with peaceful piano and atmospheric electronics, immersing the audience in a wise darkness. (For reviews of releases by James Johnson, go here.)
Interstitial: "Marco Polo" launches the listener on a sedate journey of cloudy landscapes with a hint of machinery buzzing just beyond peripheral vision.
Vir Unis: "The Slow Motion World of All Desires" blends liquid sounds with quasi-string passages, evoking a peaceful excursion into realms of glistening atmospherics tinged with an unobtrusive edge of drama. (For reviews of releases by Vir Unis, go here.)
"Winter Foliage", "A Rope of Sand", and "Labyrinths" are older albums by the Circular Ruins available at MP3.com. Also of interest is the Hive Project, a collaboration between the Circular Ruins and Jeremy Rice (aka Introspective).
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