Guided By Robert Pollard

Circus Devils
I Razor

2003
by Propellerless

My interest in electronic music started because I was a fan of Brian Eno;
mostly of his early solo albums, his work with Robert Fripp
and his production work.

This led me to enroll in a Music Production trade school in Hollywood
after graduating high school in 1979.

The deal was I’d pay for the first semester and my parents
would pay for the second.
The first semester was all the bookwork and the second was
actually working in the studio.

We got to the end of the first semester and went into the studio
as an introduction to what we would be doing in the next semester.
This was sort of a way of saying,
“If you pay your tuition, this is what we will be doing.”

Anyway there was a five-piece band with a female singer in the studio,
not at all my kind of music,
I was more interested in what was termed at the time as “New Music”,
like Devo, Talking Heads, Oingo Boingo; what we now call “New Wave”.

The band in the studio that day was some lame mellow rock band,
who seemed completely out of touch with where music was going.

Our instructor told the class that,
The only way to make a living at recording music was to
make “Commercial Hit Records”.

I had this fantasy of a career in recording being like Brian Eno
spending hours creating in the studio with endless time to create.
With that and the fact that my parents reneged on paying for the
second semester,
I dropped out.

Soon after I went to a more affordable local Community College,
enrolled in recording class and a class on Electronic Music.
During this period we learned of such Electronic Music pioneers as,
Delia Derbyshire, Walter “Wendy” Carlos and Isao Tomita
among others.

Todd Tobias’ name would fit comfortable among these pioneers
and I really feel he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

One big difference with Tobias and those pioneers,
instead of creating a piece of music that last about the side of an album,
Tobias cuts his pieces to about a minute or two,
plus as an added bonus, he adds the element of rock music.

Now that I think about it,
in hindsight perhaps it’s not Brian Eno I wanted to be,
but Todd Tobias.
He seems to be more of a talented musician, engineer and creator.
And I doubt he would have ever taken the job of producing U2 and Coldplay.

This album, “I Razor” is actually a soundtrack to the movie
of the same name, which Tobias made.
It is basically a solo album with Circus Devils songs
sprinkled within it.

The album is very experimental with Todd’s beautiful and disturbing
soundscapes, very reminiscent of those pioneers,
yet what makes him different is the rock element he adds.

Not like the quirky New Wave music of the 80’s,
but with more of a heavier rock sound, which that music lacked.

The songs bleed into each other for the most part.
If you are not watching the track numbers change on your cd player,
you may think there are about 10 songs, instead of thirty-six.

The Circus Devils songs included have appeared on the bands previous albums,
some of which have slightly different edits than their studio album counterparts,
and a couple even appear as instrumentals.

One band track, “Let’s Go Back To Bed” is a completely different version than
the original which appeared on the band’s first album, “Ringworm Interiors”.
The original was more of a weird, jaunty Syd Barrett sounding number.
Where the “I Razor” version has a more hard rock rhythm,
but still very bizarre.
It really should have been included in the recent best of Circus Devils
compilation “Laughs Best (The Kids Eat It Up)”.
Though the video does appear on the DVD included with the album.

The more disturbing moments are tempered by some of the bands
more calmer numbers like, “He Had All Day”, “When The Beast Falls Down”
and “All The Good Ones Are Gone”.

The Guided By Voices fans who don’t go for Circus Devils studio albums
will surely not enjoy this album.
But if you are a fan of Circus Devils like myself,
Experimental Music or music that is “Out There”.

This just might be up your alley!