Supergroups are nothing new in progressive rock—there’s Transatlantic, ELP, Asia, Liquid Tension Experiment, The Tangent, and OSI (just to name a few). While a project consisting of several artists from several different bands is an exciting prospect, there is always the risk that the music will sound too similar to the members’ main bands. With its third release, And So On, Circa suffers from this exact problem; however, the music is still quite impressive and memorable.
Circa was formed in 2006 by four musicians who’ve each been associated with Yes: drummer Alan White, keyboardist Tony Kaye, bassist Billy Sherwood, and guitarist Jimmy Haun. Throughout the last half decade, the line-up has gone through several changes, and on And So On, Sherwood and Kaye still lead the charge (while White and Haun have been replaced by Scott Connor and Johnny Bruhns, respectively). Genre fans will likely find that while the album is full of masterful melodies and magnificent musicianship, but overall, there is a feeling of too much familiarity and run-of-the-mill timbres.
The title track opens the album with rich harmonies, and within seconds, one can sense a very Yes presence. In fact, if not for the fact that Sherwood’s voice is a bit edgier and lower than Jon Anderson’s, you’d swear it was the classic Fragile line-up. Every sound and style feels welcome and recognizable; however, it also feels like Circa is playing things a little too safely.
“Cast Away” inarguably features one of the album’s most haunting melodies, while “Notorious” is probably the most radio friendly and accessible. “Half Way Home” features some nice interplay between keyboard and guitar, and the poignant simplicity of “In My Sky” definitely leaves an impact on the listener. The signature odd rhythms of The Flower Kings seem to be an inspiration on “True Progress,” and of course, the lengthy closing track, “Life’s Offering,” packs a varied punch.
And So On is highly enjoyable as long as you know what to expect. The music alternates between complicated and calm, the melodies are pleasant, and the vocals are distinctive and cool. However, Circa is simply resting comfortably within an established sound; there really aren’t any innovations or surprises to be had. Fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy the record, but they will also realize that they’ve already heard everything Circa has to offer.