Runners are surely the worst advert for their own sport ever. Tell me honestly, now—have you ever seen someone running and looking like they were enjoying themselves? As opposed to, say, gasping and spluttering for air, their flushed cheeks pumping like the bellows on a vintage crucible steel forge; sweat beading their foreheads and making a dark damp streak down the middle of their backs, one of those little water bottles with the built in handle jabbing in half-time counterpoint like the world’s least terrifying knuckleduster… and generally—at least in my experience—making no faster progress than I can manage with a brisk but otherwise highly agreeable walk?
Well, okay, maybe you have, but I haven’t—and every runner I ever see sends me right back to being quite literally hounded round the school athletics track in the pissing rain by a psychotic Welsh ex-Army PTI who wasn’t going to let any queers, weirdos or artfags get away without doing their statutory weekly dose of exercise and public humiliation. No sir, so get a move on you dirty little wanker. I don’t care if it’s hailing, snowing, or raining hot volcanic pumice YOU PICK YOUR BLOODY FEET UP BOY
Ahem. Yeah, so. Running. It’s never appealed, despite my gradual acquisition of friends (I have no idea how) who don’t just run but who enjoy running… and who sometimes even extol its allegedly ecstatic and healthful benefits.
Still, nothing has ever come close to changing my mind. Except maybe for Circle’s Six Day Run album.
Six Day Run is the psyche/krautrock soundtrack to a short film of the same title by one Mika Taanila, which was shot at the The Self-Transcendence Six Day Race in Flushing Meadows, New York in 2012. This is apparently a 140-year-old sporting event where the participants run non-stop (well, with ‘minimal sleep’, according to the press release) around a one-mile circular track for six days.
Six. Days. That’s nearly a week.
Now, one of the runners I know best has told me repeatedly that once you’ve run hard enough for long enough and broken through not just your second wind, but your fourth or fifth, there approaches a condition which might best be described as a transcendent all-body hallucinatory state, wherein pain recedes into an ecstatic glow of fire in your muscles, your heart pounds at the centre of your body like some fusion of the sun and a techno-club kick drum, and your mind starts looping round and round on itself, playing evolving thought-riffs against the burn and heave of your lungs, the slap of your feet on the tarmac, and the heart, the heart, the heart.
If my friend isn’t totally pulling my plonker, then Circle have really captured the inner experience of what that six day run must actually be like. Six tracks, one per day, all but one in weirdly asymmetrical time signatures (13/8, anyone? Or is it 13/4?), built up in the classic techno manner of layering seemingly disconnected patterns and loops on top of each other, but using the staccato riffs and tonal palette of acid-drenched krautrock: drums, bass, guitar, keys, all treated and effected in ways that give them a sheen of hyperreality; so you can never be quite sure whether it’s not all some elaborate experiment with synthesizers, ketamine and musically over-achieving monkeys who’ve been wired up by DARPA in an attempt to summon Terence McKenna out of the afterlife like some fungal Shiva, an endless trail of chattering hyperspace elves dancing behind him like a tiny anodised troupe of Pan’s People collectibles that even your lecherous father wouldn’t dream of smacking one off over.
Yeah, it’s a bit weird, this one, but in the best possible way; if you like weird loops and lumpy time signatures that gleam like a petrol puddle caught in a chrome hubcap, and which stick in the musical bit of your brain like roofing nails in a horse’s hoof, then you’ll wanna check these six instrumentals out sooner rather than later.
It’s not perfect, of course; not a single track clocks in above six minutes, which rather spoils the illusion of all-day balls-trippin’ running that longer and more mutagenically altered cuts might have produced. And the last track just… well, it just finishes. No crescendo, no ceremony, no sense of completion. Which—given the concept of the album, and what finishing a six-day run must feel like (I’m guessing rather like you are God, but God is also the track, and God is also the universe, and it has just somehow given birth to you and shat you out simultaneously?)—is a bigger anticlimax than finding out the long-cherished rumours of your vicious PE teacher’s nervous breakdown were untrue; that he hadn’t after all had to be dragged out of his local boozer by the police, after demonstrating his undying love for an Economy 7 storage heater located at the damp and musty end of the billiard room.
Nonetheless, there’s half an hour or thereabouts of good weird tunes on here. So ‘run’ and get yourself a copy, eh?