Throughout the course of their first full-length, Brooklyn psych-heads Traveling Circle run a course from fuzzy rock traditionalism to soulful, chic vocalizing and leave no shortage of room to dedicate to weirding-out in classic space rock style. Guitarist Dylan Maiden takes on a sultry Curtis Mayfield style, and somehow it fits with his wah, flange and sundry other guitar effects.
Handmade House (released via German mega-psych imprint Nasoni Records) is an awkward kind of album, but it’s awkward and jagged in a way very much en vogue these days, and Traveling Circle don’t seem afraid of poking a little fun at either themselves or the trends happening in underground rock around them. Through it all, they remain skilled songwriters and adept in a variety of presentations, drummer Josh Schultz and bassist Charlie Freeman (also vocals) show no trouble adapting to any of the turns present, as on the watery, bass-led “Streamlined,” late in the album.
It’s not for everyone, and its hip-to-be-square vibe is going to turn off some of those brave enough to take it on in the first place, but Traveling Circle manage to carve out a genuine niche for themselves, and in so doing make a strong beginning statement for their band. They have all the swagger of your favorite punkers and a surprising amount of sophistication. Listening to “Forest Floor” is like hearing early Alice Cooper and wondering who the hell that guy is writhing around on stage. Some will get it, some won’t. My biggest hope is Traveling Circle use Handmade House for a launch into further musical weirdness next time around. This is a cool start.