Interview: Squaring Circles Chat About Their Latest Album, ‘Circles Make Lines Spiral’
Emerging from the creative hub of Naarm/Melbourne, the innovative recording endeavour Squaring Circles has made a resounding comeback with their latest full-length creation, Circles Make Lines Spiral. This album marks an exciting evolution in the project’s sonic identity, venturing boldly into a realm where intricate rhythms and electronic textures converge, while textured organic instrumentation and mesmerising vocal soundscapes reign supreme. In an exclusive interview, we caught up with Brendan and Lili of Squaring Circles to delve deeper into the album and their creative journey.
Congratulations on the new album, how does it feel now that it’s out in the world?
B: Thank you – Speaking personally, it’s a strange admixture of relief and anxiety. It’s relieving to let it go and not feel possessed by it anymore. Yet at the same time I always feel a wave of anxiety with any release in having to accept its ‘finished’ form, and its failure of capturing the image behind the piece.
L: Goooood, a little emo, vulnerable and excited… It took a long time to make then a long time to release. It was done a little while ago but we’ve all been travelling so been slowly releasing singles and wanted to put this out when we were home so we could launch properly *alas* We are all still a little dispersed geographically, Brendan and Sam are currently in Berlin and I (lil) just got back from a few places, Georgia being the last stop.
Circles Make Lines Spiral represents a distinct shift for Squaring Circles, focusing on rhythmic and electronic elements. Can you tell us more about what inspired this evolution in your sound and what listeners can expect from the new album?
B: In a way CMLS sees us take a sonic shift from a broader periphery to a more focused foreground. There was a conscious desire to either be more hated or liked by the listener – to be more assertive, present and less of an invitation to participate. Rhythms played a huge part in this transition on this record.
For myself, part of this evolution was inspired by 90s breaks and IDM. We were listening to a lot of artists like Seefeel, Aphex Twin and Theo Parrish at the time which pushed us to strip more layers away and focus more on the core of the piece.
I think listeners can expect something more defined and human than the last record.
L: It was driven by a combination of isolation, curiosity, inspiration + necessity. Simplifying the set up through the lockdowns our band had to downsize from a 7-piece setup to just two of us working on things and a few getaways to write and record with other members during the breaks in lockdowns. We got into elektroms (MD, AK, OT, AR, DT) + drum machines, becoming more curious about these worlds which was amazing but they are worlds within worlds.
It’s clear that this album places a significant emphasis on textured organic instrumentation and captivating vocal soundscapes. Could you share some insights into your creative process when crafting these sonic landscapes and any specific influences that shaped this aspect of the album?
B: The crafting of these soundscapes simply comes down to play and vulnerability. For us it’s all about creating the setting and rigging a certain set up in an exciting way to invite both of these elements.
On a deeper level Squaring Circles centres itself on the idea of liminal/transformative space and the distinguishing in quality of profane and sacred space. I think the potency of such spaces are conducive of states of flow where these textural landscapes seem to just occur when we explore through the specific set ups.
L: Capturing live spontaneous first takes is still our focus in our process and practice. its magic how potent the original emotional nucleuses and lyrical themes that are recorded in first takes or jams tend to resonate and have strength and meaning.
We explored a lot of remixing and interesting ways of processing stems to generate the right energy + vigor that the spaces we craved to be in (the club, dance parties, deep house) and those textures and Aesthetics but still wanted to incorporate a lot of organic instrumentation and texture. We went a bit crazy trying to figure out what was wanting to be shown on this album (back catalogue of 5 million demos).
Melbourne has a vibrant and diverse music scene. Has the local music scene influenced your work as Squaring Circles, and are there any other artists or projects in the area that have inspired you during the making of this album?
B: So overwhelming how special and vibrant it is! Currently being in Berlin and travelling Europe for the past 4 months has made me realise how truly international Melbourne’s music community has become. It’s an endless source of inspiration to be surrounded by friends who are creatives and to participate in the scene. To witness their practice, process and especially their approach to the industry has really taught us so many lessons.
In saying that we’ve always felt relatively isolated with our sound and influences in the context of Melbourne. Sonically, not too much has inspired our recent work as I feel like we’re in a different timeline/era.. I’m still musically digesting some artists from the 2015 Melbourne era like ‘I’LLs’ (most underrated Melbourne band of all time) and The Flyying Colours. They continue to influence me in many ways.
L: We have been quite isolated and coming back out definitely but I think we don’t really have a direct fit into any particular scene which is strange but ok, it’s also been due to being deep in recording process, now we get to to shows and see – but really there are a lot of people creating the spaces we resonate with i think it’s just difficult to consolidate even for performing the crossover between electronic and band aspects.
You have to make an effort in Melbourne to fully immerse in seeing shows / performances + gigs regularly but you have to be organised / doing shows + locked into culture + networks. Before I left to go overseas I was seeing a lot of shows (rising) + different party’s/ Mabe Fratti (intimate shows) – it’s a very exciting city to live in if you are ‘in it’.
Circles Make Lines Spiral is a captivating album title. What’s the story or concept behind this title, and how does it relate to the overall theme or message of the album?
B: Circles Make Lines Spiral is a mantra we termed to symbolise the influence of a unitary upon its shadows/world of composites. The concept behind it is essentially a geometric take on enemation theology, which was inspired by a series of intimate personal experiences and was semantically influenced by Neoplatonic works; The Enneads and The Elements of Theology.
Below is some further notes on these ideas.
[Excerpt taken from Brendan’s Album notes]
‘Circles Make Lines Spiral’ – is centred on the concept of eternals/a unitary (which transcends/does not qualify to exist in separation/determinable quantities) influencing its ‘shadow’ – the ‘heavier’ elements sitting below in separation/distinction (a line = a dot moving) which feel the pull/ influence/force of the ‘ideal’ to eventually mimic and embody the qualities/movement of the circle (which would appear as a spiral in a world of distinction). It’s a very Neoplatonic concept/mode of arithmetic & geometric visual thinking used in Ancient Greek Initiation training.
So basically this record is a statement on a subject’s (person’s) transformation by the experience of the waking unconscious/liminal experience – the immersion, dissolution and emergence out of a unitary field a.k.a ontological shock from experiencing the unconscious and the ego cycling through a death and rebirth in a contained/liminal environment. This album’s concept is a geometrical take on this process.
We imitate the eternal – evolution is the process of slowly adapting to unseen forces that move the physical world around – squaring of the circle – and in time matter adapts to reflect and embody the forces behind it.
This second record is a deeper conceptual take on the first record. Sound-wise it’s more grounded in the tangible world as opposed to the heights of the ineffable inner world. It’s still meant to reference that ineffable world, however it’s much more focused on the relationship of a subject being influenced by that potent field and a comment on its transformation/the relationship between these two counterparts. This record is more about the subject in the world adapting to these inner images and drives.
This title (Circles Make Lines Spiral) and concept has been semantically influenced a number Neoplatonic texts – Proculus’ Elements of Theology (number emanation theology – where all number and multiplicity come from 0 [the true prometheus of number – a true symbol of unity/ quality] / a single potent source which falls ‘out of itself’ into non self thus creating distinction through opposites), Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite’s Divine Names and the Mystical Theology & Plotinus’ The Enneads.
In a way these ideas are childish to put into words and are experienced as symbols – words are just useful scaffolding to acknowledge the symbol. I found the symbols around CMLS to be really potent throughout the writing sessions and informed a lot of the headspaces and colours in my playing/soundscapes.
Experimental music often pushes boundaries and challenges conventions. Can you highlight some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of creating this album in terms of musical experimentation and production?
B: The fact that there is no path, rationality nor rules and that you have to follow an abstract feeling to reveal the true piece. This is both the most challenging and most rewarding part of the process.
L: Perfectionism and neurosis in getting things closest to the headspaces we wanted as possible. It was incredibly hard to dial back in and stay connected to that original emotion.
We re-recorded drums several times and tracks and remixed them only to go back to original takes. Cutting songs down that were 20 min jams that had so much personality and story to us and making them into song songs to very interesting…also having to clean up and work with original takes from drum machine jams because rerecording was just not hitting the same spot to recapture the energy we had to be experimental.
Are there any particular messages or emotions you hope your audience will take away from the listening experience?
B: To go inwards.
L: Just allowing it to spark their imagination.
Do you have any live shows lined up we should know about?
B: I’m excited to announce our first overseas show! We will be debuting the album live in Berlin on the 14th of November @ PAS. Unfortunately Lili can’t get over with work commitments, however Sam and myself will be interpreting the album in a live experimental sound set.
What’s next for Squaring Circles?
B: Remix EP of Circles Makes Lines Spiral (with some new music!?) and an Australian east coast tour early 2024 + HEAPS of melbz shows.
L: The creative process of putting together the new material for our live shows – re-energising and really pushing the experimental sides of our work, new sounds + what we want to truly give and create this space for people.
No doubt new collaborations, done a bit of travel and met some wildly talented people from around the world – experienced different energies + works, culture
And b-sides possibly down the track…
Squaring Circles new album, Circles Make Lines Spiral, is available everywhere.