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Posted on December 29th, 2014 (11:00 am) by Heather Milkiewicz

Semicircle’s debut LP, Blown Breeze, Grown Grass and We are Part of the Earth, is a sweet and introspective morsel that will leave you with a pleasant aftertaste. The band’s quiet yet substantial lyrics paired with delicate but impressionable instrumentation may at times cause you to wonder if it was all just a wondrous dream.

While this is the duo’s first album as Semicircle, Andrew McFarland and Ryan Engelberger have been making music both independently and together for quite some time. They are both in the collaborative outfits of Reptar and Giant Giants. Semicircle began as a solo side project formed by McFarland, who viewed it as a musical experiment where live performances became somewhat of a musical free for all. According to McFarland, “About half [of the shows] were really magical. The other half were complete chaos, which was awesome." However, there was a plea from his friends to take the effort more seriously and to begin "[performing] the songs in earnest." This album seems to have accomplished that request effectively, displaying a different musical side of McFarland and Engelberger, and welcoming change from the more upbeat but less intimate nature of their other work.

The album begins with a lovely and simple tune, “Southern Spring,” showcasing McFarland’s vulnerable, yet decisive vocals accompanied by a singular guitar melody. The intonation and the sincerity professed throughout the song brings to mind hints of Sufjan Stevens on “Heirloom” from his All Delighted People EP. “Mechanism of Erasure” takes a slightly more elevated approach with fuller instrumentation of percussion and guitar, and a sound that, at times, has a classic rock feel reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash on “Wooden Ships.” “Movement is Calm” begins with a repetitive one chord keyboard intro and segues into percussive backing and a guitar melody that builds throughout the song, incorporating a full sounding brass along the way, leading to a justified climax. All the while, the duo complement each other with harmonious vocal accompaniment.

The mood is then brought down in the melancholy “No Words.” The song opens with a sound that mimics a winter’s wind and a looping electric guitar melody paired with a fitting duet that is soft and somber until about three-quarters of the way through. The instrumentation then takes over, exploding into a somewhat unexpected rough, loud, and chaotic thrashing of the guitar and frenzied drums, until it dies back down into a more relaxed melody led by a keyboard and steady of guitar. The album continues to wax and wane through a myriad of emotions, both within and among tracks. “Underground River of Glass” is one of the album's standout tracks due to its excellent use of dynamics to add power to its purpose. It again showcases the duo’s skill in creating a simple, yet enchanting, musical arrangement. The guitar prowess is prominently displayed, starting soft and melodious, then building in the middle of the song to a heavier sound that incorporates more percussive elements and also builds in a lyrical and vocal climax as before it mellows back out. The way in which the instrumentation rises and then falls by holding onto the lingering aggressive nature of the guitar makes for a more convincing emotional statement.

“Remember Me” and “Easier” are the weakest tracks on the album being more one-dimensional in comparison to the either bare and intimate, or robust and musically layered nature of the rest of the album. “Remember Me” is a straight forward rock ballad that feels more in line with some of the duo’s work with their other collaborative efforts. “Easier,” in comparison, is a much more sorrowful track, but does not show the same emotional or musical complexity of some of the album's other songs to give the track extra depth.

The album ends with another standout track, “Part of the Earth,” that gives off a majestic and emotionally driven spirit. It is constructed complete with an entrancing keyboard melody, leading to a simple guitar solo, and full sounding brass instrumentation that steals the show. The brass is scattered throughout, before climbing to its height to be featured prominently on its own as the track winds down in the last minute or so. It finishes the album in a grandiose fashion that leaves the listener wanting more.

Blown Breeze, Grown Grass and We are Part of the Earth is a welcome treat from Andrew McFarland and Ryan Engelberger who show that they are more than just fun and games. The duo has presented a deep and emotion driven album that displays their clever musical depth with a more raw and heartfelt dimension. It is a promising sign that the duo continues to reveal new pieces to their musical puzzle.

Track List:

  1. Southern Spring
  2. Mechanism of Erasure
  3. Movement is Calm
  4. No Words
  5. Underground River of Glass
  6. Remember Me
  7. Easier
  8. Stranger
  9. Untitled
  10. Part of the Earth
Semicircle - Blown Breeze, Grown Grass and We are Part of the Earth Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

78 / 100
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