Acquired taste is a decidedly complicated concept. For some, any music remotely anti-social, or weird, doesn’t get a listen. For others, the song just needs to have a hook. And for many, if a song doesn’t fit the way their ears are used to receiving a preordained musical template, it also doesn’t get much of a listen. Me? I don’t care about any of that. I am of the “musical journey” camp, and that loosely-defined group only occasionally needs structure. Although listening to everything from point a to z in an old school linear way, I have zero rules for how the contents within the structure are delivered. To me, “acquired taste” never enters the mix—is the overall piece artistically valid?
Case in point the first album since 2001, the second release, from Circulatory System, fronted by Will Cullen Hart, and “assembled” by former band members and other project comrades including John Fernandes, Derek Almstead, Jeff Mangum, and several others. Indeed, the band, like Neutral Milk Hotel and Hart’s other sometimes collaborators Olivia Tremor Control, is a member of the Elephant 6 Recording Company, which features musicians based in, or around, Athens, Georgia. Signal Morning, on its surface, is the long-delayed sophomore release from Circulatory System due to Hart’s recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis, various E6 projects, and other factors. It is also a highly enchanting, somewhat melancholic, and often beautiful patchwork quilt of montage segments that the lazy-eared would normally label as an “acquired taste.”
Ingenious elements are edited and sliced to match cleverly-titled themes (“Woodpecker Greeting Worker Ant,” “Tiny Concerts,” and “Solid Forms Dissolving”). Jangly ’60s pop rests besides ’70s punk lying ‘neath ’00s dissonance to spin post-bliss evermore (“Rocks and Stones” and a fantastic sonic rave up on “The Spinning Continuous”). Insane montage moments which have been scissored, edited, and stapled are joined by duct tape in a kaleidoscopic way (“This Morning (We Remembered Everything),” “Overjoyed,” the title track, and Jesus, most of everything else, for that matter). Miniature relational universes are encapsulated in brief moments of reflection (“Tiny Concerts,” and the elegantly divine “I You We”), while Hart never ignores his unique gift for majestic and timeless pop hooks which linger (“The Breathing Universe,” the crazy short—22 seconds and out—“News from the Heavenly,” and the unpredictable “Gold Will Stay”). In the end, the sonic collage is a headphoner’s paradise. Elements of trance, ambience, ’60s psychedelia mixed in with ersatz ’00s anime pop music surface and sooth the ear (“Until Moon Medium Hears the Message”) until one is rendered a fan. Or not.