The title of Circlesquare’s sophomore album Songs about Dancing and Drugs will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with frontman Jeremy Shaw’s artistic output. Much of the 31-year-old Vancouverite’s music and visual art has explored the transcendental possibilities in nightlife, most notoriously in “DMT,” a video display chronicling the hallucinatory journeys of eight people high on dimethyltryptamine.
But like many thirtysomething partiers, Shaw says his “threshold isn’t what it used to be.”
“I did some [drugs] on New Year’s and I vomited all day,” he admits. “You hit a level, especially if you want to stay on your game.”
Recorded and mixed just before Shaw moved from Vancouver to Berlin in late 2007, Songs about Dancing and Drugs is his first Circlesquare LP since signing to !K7 last year. Set for release on Tue, Jan 27, the album marks a comeback of sorts for Shaw, who has been working on a new record deal remixing and performing sporadic live dates since Output Recordings, the London-based label that released his 2003 debut Pre-Earthquake Anthem, folded.
Although the new album draws thematically on his bygone experiences as a raver, the music was recorded without the aid of chemicals; its druggy sound is balanced by a sobering, reflective lyrical tone. “If you listen to the record, it’s definitely not a dance record,” says Shaw. “It’s got more of a drug-use feel. It has more of a darker perspective on the highs and lows of euphoria.”
The album retains the sparse, synth-heavy sound of his earlier output; its nine tracks nodding to both early ’80s German post punk and late ’80s pop-oriented industrial bands such as Nine Inch Nails, but placing a greater emphasis on live instrumentation.
Songs about Dancing and Drugs evolved through a series of live shows with drummer Dale Butterfield and guitarist Trevor Larson. Shaw is planning a “heavy return” to touring with a show featuring trippy visuals by Vancouver’s Nathan Whitford of Open Visuals. (Though no Canadian dates are scheduled yet, the band will likely head to Toronto in March.)
The “dancing” part of the album’s title will get its due in music video form. The album’s first single “Dancers” was released on Jan 19, followed by a Bienvenido Cruz-directed video starring two contestants from So You Think You Can Dance Canada. “I’ve always wanted to do contemporary R’n’B dance videos,” he says, laughing. “The video is based on a Robert Logo drawing of business people frozen in spastic moments. Then it will break into Janet Jackson.”
So what kind of drugs does he recommend when listening to his darkly druggy album or watching his industrial pop homage to Miss Janet? “Ecstasy and pure MDMA for sure. It’s certainly not coke music,” he says. “I like people to go deep into it.”