I’m Digging Michael’s Garden ~ A Small Step into the World of Circulus

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Having been introduced to Michael Tyack via a chance meeting last week, I thought it high time I checked out his band of minstrels who call themselves Circulus. Having been aware of the name for some time without taking the plunge (a – one can’t keep tabs on everything, can one? and b- I’ve been playing little else but sunshine pop of late) I felt I ought to at least see what they’re about.

They play psychedelic-folk. A good start; I’ve always had a taste for the former and have latterly come to realise that folk is not the music crime I once thought it to be. Actually, I always quite liked the buccolic sounds of Steeleye Span (All Around my Hat) and the folk-tinged TV themes of my childhood (Ace of Wands and Pentangle’s Take Three Girls).

They also intrigue as it would seem that being involved with this group is to be subject to a far tougher regime than any yet dreamt up by Mark E Smith.

Tyack’s story is a fascinating one via psychedelia, punk (he cites a Cockney Rejects gig in Cornwall as a major touchstone), too much acid and Renaissance lute music. His story is told in full in an interview with Jeanette Leech in the next issue of Shindig (due at the end of this month).

Internet research throws up a right old mixed bag of quotes relating to Circulus: “70s psych and 12th-century chamber music”; “It certainly beats watching yet another bunch of chancers pretending it’s the 1980s. Why not pretend it’s the 1380s?”; “More ‘Greensleeves’ than Gang Of Four, Circulus are out of step with any music made since the War of the Roses” (i.e. since the 15th century);  “A gentle musical fistfight between a group of under-nourished 16th Century court musicians and an acid-soaked bunch of hippie-rockers from the early ’70s”.

It would seem that there is some confusion as to which century Circulus are attempting to fuse with the sounds of 1971, though I doubt that this really matters.

Apparently Mr Tyack and co have at times met with violence on account of their clothing. I’m very much with, rather than against, them on this one. The right to wander the streets in eccentric clothing has always gone hand-in-hand with any musical movement worth its salt from zoot suits to Teds, to punks etc. Besides, who would be burnt at the stake six hundred years ago ~ those in capes and hose of cotton and velvet or those draped in devil-made fibres emblazoned with writing?

That Circulus release CDs and have both a website and myspace as opposed to a Town Crier proves that they are not totally out of step with the modern age. Yet, like their chums on the Chap Magazine, a distaste and suspicion of this digital age is a healthy and noble thing.

As someone else has said; “You either get them or you don’t… like medieval Marmite.” I’m looking forward very much to seeing them at the Lexington next week.

Here be a roster of their forthcoming dates:

Aug 8th (Tomorrow): Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Aug 13th: The Lexington, Pentonville Road, London (8pm, £7, adv £6)

Sep 1st: Ronnie Scott’s, London (acoustic set)

Sep 4th: Moseley Folk Festival, Birmingham

Sep 19th: Deep in the Woods

Sep 26th: Orange Tree Theatre, Canterbury

Oct 3rd: A cave in Gothenberg, Sweden

Support act for the Lexington gig is Trimdon Grange

Photo by Simon Collins

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