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The album that started the Finnish hypno-rock cult in 1994 is long overdue for reissue. The 22th anniversary special vinyl edition comes as a joint venture between Ektro/Full Contact Records and Svart Records. The double vinyl features a bonus track not available on CD.
1991. We had been running a small indie label called Bad Vugum for a mere four years, but we genuinely felt we had found bands that made a difference, definitely in the budding Finnish scene at least. So in 1991 friends and even total strangers at gigs and festivals suddenly started telling us that the best two undiscovered bands come from a drab small town called Pori – and that they both sounded exactly like they should be on Bad Vugum. Naturally our interest was piqued and we got to hear the self-released 7”s by these bands called Circle and Deep Turtle… Alas, we were not overly impressed. ”They’re still undeveloped, they still sound too much like their apparent musical heroes, and most importantly the songs aren’t strong enough”, we convinced ourselves.
To this day I still thank our lucky stars that Mr. Dassum of Deep Turtle, who recorded in the same small basement as Circle, called me and asked if we were at all interested in hearing some new Deep Turtle demos. Sure we were, and we sure got more than we bargained for: as a bonus he also included some new stuff from their friends Circle – and we were blown away by both bands’ progression. We duly agreed to start releasing 7” EP’s at first, just to make sure the bands only put out all killer / no filler kinds of records, and to slowly build a following before any financially riskier album productions.
During the next 18 months Circle for their part got two awesome EP’s out of their system, and absolutely floored live audiences all over the country with their high-intensity gigs. Which were more akin to hypnotic mass rituals, what with their glowing body paints, jarring lighting tricks and various blooddripping props.
Sometime in 93 – 94 the guys and we both felt sure Circle were mature enough for a full-length. After unleashing them in the studio we got to hear quite a few mind-boggling new, slower songs they had concocted, then a few more. Then even more. We almost couldn’t believe our ears, it was becoming clear that a single LP could not contain these inspired goofballs’ creative output.
Recently I discovered I still get goosebumps from listening closely to Meronia. Not just because I love just about every track on the album, but also because it brings me back to the days of trying to work out the best possible order for the songs. I’m always on a personal mission to ”help” bands with that ( IMHO) essential dimension to any record, but Meronia’s sprawling bulk of 15 –16 tracks (we often added bonus tracks on the vinyl versions, even with single LP’s, just to mess with CD buyers) proved a daunting task. I spent literally days and weeks immersing myself in the music, switching and changing the song sequence every which way – and those were the gruelling days of a double-deck cassette players, mind you. Then I spent hours on the phone with Circle’s Jussi, discussing and speculating what each track might ”mean” in any particular order. I felt I truly lived on planet Meronia.
In Finland, the album got rave reviews both in the underground zines and, somewhat surprisingly, mainstream press as well. Abroad, it opened some new doors in the underground, but surprisingly was not licensed for a foreign release. In those times small foreign labels still seemed to settle for 7” records for Circle. But it was still early days in what was later to become a global Circle industry as we know it… What is it now? Some 20 + albums, half of which on foreign labels? And whenever I talk to Jussi, Circle seem to have at least three albums already recorded and waiting for a release. They’ve sure succeeded in carving a respectable niche for themselves, while still taking chances and trying new things. Maximum respec’.
To wrap this up, a funny Meronia anecdote. In the mid-90’s someone claiming to be an A& R executive for the David Geffen Company sent us a fax, complete with letterheads and everything, requesting a promo copy of Meronia. He wrote he was a big fan of the 7” stuff he had heard and was interested in checking out the band’s ”album potential”. We sent the CD, and waited for a reply. I mean c’mon, the label that made Sonic Youth huge, right? Well, since we didn’t hear anything, I first faxed the guy back, and then even called the number on the letterhead – but it didn’t even connect…
Oh the lengths resourceful Circle fans can go to when hunting for an import missing from their collection!
Bad Vugum / BV 2 Produktions