Aficionado – Circus Music

Circus Music

If there is one thing wrong with society’s fascination with commercial, mainstream music, it’s that we neglect to give underground artists attention. We’d rather hear something safe and familiar (and preferably with a pretty face) than to take a chance on an unknown band. A band that has a unique, innovative and very interesting sound. Basically, a band like Aficionado. This ten piece, currently unsigned, ensemble from Albany, NY, just cut their debut LP, Circus Music, and it demands a few listens.

They describe themselves a progressive rock outfit with indie and pop qualities, taking influences from King Crimson, YES, the Flaming Lips, and At the Drive-In, among others. I would add in a strong punk attitude, as their sound is as much the Mars Volta as it is No Doubt and Green Day, complete with flutes and trumpets. Combine this with a large percentage of pure originality and raw ambition to make quirky, fascinating music, and Circus Music is a fantastic first effort.

Circus Music begins with the “March of Welcome,” where vocalist Nick Warchol welcomes you to his circus. This idea, perhaps borrowed from Sgt. Pepper, gives the disc a feeling of conceptual continuity throughout, and makes the listener feel involved. At the half way point, there is an “Intermission,” a western saloon style piano interlude that adds to the feeling of being at a circus watching performers. This track segues into “Breathing Fire,” where an audience can be heard chatting over the opening. The concluding piece, “Triumphant,” effectively gives the feeling of its title with the punk sense of successfully defying authority. What’s scattered about the rest of the LP is a perfect mixture of rebellious vocals over complex and frantic prog/punk. Circus Music is what happens when The Clash meets The Mars Volta to attempt the Ska genre.

If there is anything lacking with Circus Music (and this is purely subjective), it’s the vocals and melodies. Nick Warchol does a great job of conveying a rebellious counter-culture young man, but he never really sings. Also, the melodies are very simple and not too memorable. However, Aficionado is not trying to write great songs or be revered for their harmonies. Their aim is to make great tracks full of hectic noise that appeals as much to skateboarding teens as it does to professors of music theory, and they succeed.

The story of Aficionado is a perfect example of what’s wrong with music today. Here is a humble, extremely talented and ambitious group of musicians who truly have something worthwhile to share. But the recognition and fan base they should have is prevented by the commercial garbage fed through radio and honored at the Grammy Awards. Aficionado prove that quite often, the most important and original music is being made by those who work endlessly for what they love, but, unfortunately, are also the ones you’ve never heard of.