epicycle
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epicycle

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May
14
epicycle @ Martyrs'

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Apr
28
epicycle @ Schubas

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Mar
19
epicycle @ Bottom Lounge

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Chicago, Illinois, USA

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Music

Press


The cream of Chicago's scene

By Greg Kot

At the end of each year, this column enumerates at least 10 reasons why Chicago's independent music scene is second to none. As 2002 wraps up, I had to expand to a dozen indie albums to accommodate all my local favorites from the last 12 months. Several will be playing in the next few weeks: the Waco Brothers, Ken Vandermark, the Dishes and the Aluminum Group. Here are the Chicago 12 for 2002:

5. Epicycle, "Swirl" (Cirkle): Downshifting from astral Pink Floydisms to "Smile"-era banjos and string sections, Epicycle's Ellis and Tom Clark make no small plans as retro-cool visionaries, and have the chops as producers to pull them off. Their work with Kevin Tihista has brought them a measure of acclaim as studio gurus, but for my money no one in town is making more rapturous pop music.

Kot is the Chicago Tribune rock critic.

Originally published Dec. 20, 2002.

- Chicago Tribune/Greg Kot


The Big Take-Over
Issue No. 51 -- Jack

Chicago’s Ellis Clark has made a name for himself producing a bevy of other good folks such as Kevin Tihista, The Chamber Strings, Nikki Sudden, and June & The Exitwounds. But he and his brother Tom Clark also have a refined little ‘60s-esque combo, Epicycle – which has perhaps been a little on the backburner since their 1998 LP, Orange, while Ellis was doing all the above. The sibs must have finally cleared their calendars, though, as Swirl picks up where that mid-period Beach Boys/psych-pop-inspired debut left off. It’s only a minor influence, not a slavish recreation like, say, High Llamas (for one thing, they cover David Bowie’s obscure “Rubberband”) – instead it’s filled with baroque pop that wouldn’t be out of place on a Left Banke LP or one by George Harrison or Emitt Rhodes. Sometimes they remind me of Badfinger (not so much that group’s colossal hit singles, but their slower LP tracks), sometimes the second-LP Rutles or Dukes of Stratosphere, other times Pink Floyd. They run the gamut with their melange of flavors: organs, banjos, trombones, jazzy trumpets, strings, piano, tom toms, electric leads, and simple harmonies. These guys are students who turn their love and homage into crafty and sweet pop confections, bright, not pedantic history lessons. Nice, nice, nice.
- Jack Rabid


Five years after it was recorded, Chicago's Epicycle, brothers Ellis and Tom Clark (who both work with fellow Chi-town popster Kevin Tihista)--assisted by nearly 20 guests--found a home for its second collection of magical pop on the U.K. label Cirkle. Think of all the ambitious pop efforts through the years, including (but not limited to) bands like the Beach Boys, Left Banke, the Who, Scott Walker, Bacharach & David--and throw in a touch of the creative absurdity of Daevid Allen's Gong and you might have some idea what to expect.

The tunes are expertly arranged, meticulously orchestrated (with everything from horns, strings, and flutes to African percussion) and, lyrically, imbued with a keen sense of irony. "Crash" is a simply gorgeous piece of music, incorporating lush harmonies, solo trumpet, and flute; The droney "Rattlesnake & Cricket" is underpinned with a hypnotic percussion track but when the horns enter, it takes a few adventurous detours into spaceland. A wonderfully inspired version of Bowie's "Rubber Band" demonstrates the Clarks' ability to twist and mutate. Combining cabaret and oddball Beatlesque pop, they take the tune to a completely different end. In the humor department, "I'm So Cool" takes swipes at the timeless pursuit of being hip ("I'm so cool I don't like little babies... I'm so cool I'm living off my trust fund") while the twisted-big-band "Nimoby" offers some social commentary on U.S. warmongering. And don't miss the "bonus track" featuring Zairean guitarist Samba Ngo.



- Launch:Music on Yahoo


Illinois Entertainer August 2004

Epicycle, comprising brothers Ellis and Tom Clark, is a combination of retro, melodious pop rock (think Abbey Road) and a neo-psychedelic tapestry of guitars (think Flaming Lips). Off the wall lyrics such as the following give the band an edgy, mesmerizing appeal: "I'm so cool I'm on my way to heaven/Don't need a god to show me the way/I'm so cool I'm only into retro/I used to do soft drugs, but now I'm into heroin." Even with the apparent self-deprecating humor, Epicycle is an innovative heavyweight active in Chicago's music scene. (Contact: www.epicycle.co.uk.) Jason Scales









- Illinois Entertainer


by Gary Glauber
PopMatters Music Critic

Sometimes you need to hear something different. In a world overpopulated with soundalike bands that refuse to make any demands on a listener, and radio whose corporate monopoly ownership dictates such sameness, it is my pleasure to relate the existence of Epicycle and their most ambitious release Swirl.

Epicycle is the ambitious creative brainchild of brothers Tom and Ellis Clark, who are a two-man musical trust. Here is the lengthy list of what the two Clarks do on this new one: Ellis Clark -- vocals, piano, electric/acoustic/slide guitars, bass guitar, farfisa organ, harmonica, recorder, vibraphone, synth, and banjo; Tom Clark -- vocals, drums, percussions, trombone, trumpet, synth, piano, vibraphone, and insane noises. Keep in mind that these two are skilled at what they play -- then add in nineteen other guest artists for other vocals, horns, guitars and strings -- and you'll only begin to get an idea of the sheer expanse of the music offered here.

Swirl is the sophomore effort from Epicycle, a bit more polished and mature than 1998's Orange (which also drew high praise from many critics), yet no less interesting and artful. This is not standard radio fare -- this is a complex collection of songs that vary in mood, tone and arrangement. Each song offers up its own little production drama, if you will, which makes listening an enjoyable and often eclectic challenge.

For five years, the brothers have been busy co-producing and playing on CD's of other people. In 2001, for instance, Ellis co-produced and played most of the backing tracks on the two critically praised albums of Kevin Tihista (Tom played some too). Other artists worked with include Nikki Sudden, the Chamber Strings, and June & the Exit Wounds.

While mixing and playing for others, the brothers Epicycle found opportunities to write and record twelve new songs for this impressive current offering. Again, this CD defies easy analysis. At times, it has the feel of Pink Floyd meets Harry Nilsson. It's that sort of paradox -- tuneful at times, dissonant at others; covering a wide array of stylistic choices. Yet each song is layered with a dazzling amount of music and vocals, well arranged and cleanly produced.

"Rings" opens the CD with guitar and strings laying an aural foundation for the eventual rocker that follows. This snazzy ditty about questioning those who want to rule the world features great drumming and fine harmonies.

This is followed by an unusual cover choice, David Bowie's "Rubberband". Bowie would be proud of the layered nuances within what the Ellis brothers have produced here (even a sort of marching band middle lead that fades into psychedelic strains). Again, there's that Pink Floyd layering of sounds, guaranteeing that each track becomes a headphones adventure.

"Crash" opens with some jazzy trumpet work against mood setting lounge organ before the subtle harmonies take over. This is a carefully measured and beautiful composition that's almost trance-like at times. At 6:24, there's ample time for its guitars and strings to slowly build. While some might consider it heresy, I daresay it wouldn't have too hard a time fitting into the classic canon that is Dark Side Of The Moon.

"Sunday Girl" opens with a combination of piano, organ and sweet West Coast harmonies, then fades into a banjo and single vocal verse. A second vocal and a piccolo join as the song slowly re-gains in volume and instrumental accompaniment. This is a fine example of the great production choices and arrangements to be found on Swirl. This plea for redemption at the hand of Sunday's Girl is another wonderful well-crafted song that would get airplay in a universe that rewarded such details.

With no exception, each of these tracks is complex with intriguing musical and vocal choices. Some have layered backgrounds of strange rhythms and sounds that serve up interesting variants of the "Revolution" musical nightmare. There's plenty of such moments within the extended soundscape of "Rattlesnake & Cricket".

"Six in the Morning" seems a melodic sister of "Sunday Girl", though presenting more of a Kinks feel to its optimistic self-aware lyrics: "Better days ahead / Better days for you my friend / If our skies aren't blue / Even if it rains again".

"I'm So Cool" is a bit of silliness that points out the blatant stupidity of the concept, while "Nimoby" is a fascinating horn-accompanied apocalyptic musical play, complete with vocal twists and turns (from opening policeman's warning to creepily whispered lead vocals to a megaphone vocal to a middle vocal bridge that sounds almost Frankie Valli-like). The whole thing is strange and eclectic, its message bleak and troubling, yet the song is done masterfully.

This is tempered somewhat by the bittersweet promise of "Big Day", that declares: "We've got no time for sadness / No time for tears / No time for their games / To boost up our f - Pop Matters


Discography

Teenage Suicide/2005
Swirl/2002
Orange/ 1998
Vintage Epicycle from the 1970-1980's include:
Epicycle 'Special First Edition' (Full Length LP)
You're Not Gonna Get It (3 Song 7-Inch EP)
Residential Area b/w School Girls (45 Single)
Epicycle "Depend On You" (4 Song 7-Inch EP)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Epicycle is comprised of brothers Ellis and Tom Clark. Highly influenced from The Beach Boys, George Harrison to Pink Floyd. Their songs bow to the '60s and '70s, yet retain a modern sense of recording and an even more modern sense of irony. The band turn their love and homage of that music into crafty and sweet pop confections, bright, not pedantic history lessons. Whatever they play, Epicycle makes music with a soft and yielding sensitivity, playing a range of songs that sound like everything from confectionery wisps to hard psychedelics.

Although the history of Epicycle is quite extensive, it was in 1995 that they built their own studio and recorded 2 albums “Orange” & “Swirl”. Both of these CDs received high critical praise from many of the world’s top music magazines (see review’s section).

Epicycle has also developed quite a reputation for producing and performing on other artist’s records such as The Chamber String’s “Gospel Morning”, Nikki Sudden’s “Red Brocade, All three of Kevin Tihista’s albums released on Atlantic, Parasol, and Sony (Japan) and June & The Exitwound’s “A Little More Haven Hamilton Please”. The latter being Parasol Record’s biggest selling release to date. They have done session work with Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), John Ashton (The Psychedelic Furs).

And they have invited many of Chicago’s finest musicians to perform on their albums such as Paul Mertens from Brian Wilson’s band (reeds & alto flute), Eric Remschneider (cellos) known for his string work with The Smashing Pumpkins & Filter, and Merrit Lear (violins) who now sings for the band The Assassins who recently signed with Arista Records. Since the completion of Epicycle’s last album “Swirl”, Ellis & Tom have recruited Geoff Benge (bass guitar) and Al Wittek (lead guitar) to help aid the band in it’s live performances and new recording sessions.

Epicycle has been doing a steady string of dates at some of Chicago’s best music venues. The band recently opened for Glenn Tilbrook last year and in 2003 for Dave Davies of The Kinks to an enthusiastic sold out house.

An interesting side note; Epicycle’s earlier releases from the days of vinyl are sought hard by record collectors and are commanding an average price of $250 for an original rare vinyl copy. As a result, this early material has just been reissued (Jan. 2005) for the first time by Rave Up Records in Italy as a special LP collector’s edition on 180 vinyl. The band will also be appearing in the upcoming Chicago punk documentary film “You Weren’t There”, highlighting the era.

Bolstered by the recent success of many years of hard work, Epicycle will continue performing their highly praised live shows which are currently showcasing new songs that will be included on their next upcoming album.

Thanks for reading…. Enjoy the Music!