Okay, so this CD is on ... Karisma Records? Goodness - that sends me down memory lane, to my old Genesis LPs on Charisma...
Not entirely inappropriate. Circle's End are a six-piece very much in the tradition started by the symphonic bands of the '70s. They don't "sound like" Genesis, or Gentle Giant, or any one of them; they have a sound that is definitely their own. But it reminds me, in various places, of all of the classic symphonic bands, complete with manic, rhythm-changing drummer (Jarle A. Pettersen) and keyboard wonk who provides textures for everything (Audun Halland). His use of the classic Rhodes occasionally reminds me, strangely, of Magma.
There are no "prog epics" on Hang On To That Kite - the tracks are almost all under six minutes, and the one exception only reaches 6:13. But most of them are long enough; they do what they're intended to do, and then stop, with spaces where the band could probably stretch out on stage.
"Echoes" opens the album very promisingly with a chunky, jagged rhythm that keeps the song bouncing - this is nothing to do with Pink Floyd's "Echoes." Most of the other songs start smooth, even mellow, but turn into rockers; this baby smokes from the beginning.
I find Karl Riis Jacobsen's vocals a bit hard to understand - his voice is pleasant enough, but the combination of a slight accent and a slightly muddy mix add up to "Dan'l's not sure what several of the songs are actually supposed to be about." Partly because of that, I suppose, I find that I prefer the two instrumental tracks ("Charlie" and "The Dogfather Has Entered the Lift") over the songs.
The interplay between the two guitarists (Omar Emanuel Johnsen and Trond Lunden) and the sax (played by Jon Trygve Olsen, not a member but part of the "extended circle") is very neat. Again, the two instrumental tracks stand out in this respect.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Circle's End is the addition to a fairly traditional lineup (drums, two guitars, keyboards, and vocals) of a cello player. Patrick Wilder also plas the electric bass, but his double-bass and cello add a rich texture to a number of the songs.
If I have one criticism of Hang On To That Kite it's that it's too controlled. I'd like to hear what happens when these boys really let it rip ... as I'm sure happens when they play live.