Circle Research Return to Their Roots for Gardiner Express

Circle Research Return to Their Roots for <i>Gardiner Express</i>
It's seems inevitable that we will all reach a point as music lovers when we each want nothing more than to go back to the beats, riffs or rhymes that first got us hooked as impressionable youngsters. Razor-sharp "observationalist" comedian Chris Rock once bluntly put it that it was whatever music you were into when you first had sex, but in more general terms, they're the sounds you heard when you first began to realize who you were on this earth.

For long-time hip-hop aficionados Circle Research, those were the tunes that moved the b-boy culture they were so heavily into through their teen years, and they're the sounds that most inform the duo's latest LP, Gardiner Express.

The largely instrumental third offering from the ever-evolving DJ/production team revamps the funk, soul breaks and rhythms used on classic cuts like the Blackbyrd's "Rock Creek Park" and Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Your Money" with a warm bed of analog synths and soothing future sonics. But more than a simple evolution, their new sound is a realization of something they've felt since the beginning.

"The last album had some synths and some live shit, but the sounds have been maturing, and this one's taking it to the whole new level," explains Nik Timar, one half of the CR pair, in an Exclaim! interview. "We come from a straight-up hip-hop background, but of course over the years we were getting into the funk, the soul, the R&B, the Motown, and all the stuff in between, and we feel like now we've actually begun to realize the sound that we wanted all along."

Proud of their latest expansive musical developments, the Toronto residents elected this time around to strip away the myriad vocal cohorts that normally grace a Circle Research release, instead placing their own skills front and centre. However, in a creative twist, rather than abandoning human voices all together, vocals on the album are made into another piece of the instrumental puzzle, as evidenced in the largely unintelligible yet melodically essential sounds of cuts like "Formulas and Functions."

"Maylee Todd actually wrote a full song to that beat," says Circle Research's Gil Masuda of the quirky Toronto-based singer who fills out the track. "But the reason that we took out her verses was because we liked the fact that the vocals that we kept were more atmospheric and in the background. It's one of the reasons why we didn't have any guest appearances on this album — we wanted to showcase Nik and Gil."

Those vocals will not entirely go to waste, mind you, as Masuda reveals of the group's plans for the unused Todd material: "You're gonna hear it after the release of this album when we put out a remix EP with vocalists over these instrumentals."

Gardiner Express is out now on Urbnet Records.