Pierce the Empire with a Sound
Nathan Burke is one of a handful of people I have bought records from that I hold very close to my heart (along with Ted Magsig, Shelby Cinca, Jason Hamacher and Billups Allen, all who worked, along with Nate at Record Convergence in Fairfax, Virginia in the 1990’s). It’s an odd relationship to have with someone, and a relationship that not many people in the world will get to have in the future. Nate, and his co-conspirators, always made me feel welcome, talked to me about music and life. It was a bond, not just consumerism. It’s one of the parts of music that I miss the most in life. Now I just buy records on-line and stew in my own world with no real connection to any one. The socialization of the record store experience was part of the experience. Now those experiences are all but gone.
Nate was also a member of Frodus, a band from Fairfax, Virginia that I got into because all the members worked at Convergence. They were nice guys, I got to know them pretty well, was supposed to roadie for them on their last tour, hell I even have a Frodus tattoo and several tapes of random songs that have yet to see the light of day. When they broke up, I was not stoked, but I kept in contact with the members of the band.
At some show, some night in DC (it was at the Wilson Center) I met up with Mr. Burke and we were talking about music. He told me he was done with an album and asked me if I wanted to listen to it. I bailed out on the bands and headed to his car for a preview of what was to become The Out_Circuit’s Burn Your Scripts Boys. The album was so beautiful and powerful and instantly I fell in love with it. Nate pressed up a small run on CD-R’s and put one in my hands. I rocked out on that album for a solid year, letting everyone I knew in on it’s delights and hoping it would find a home as it deserved. Finally Lujo Records picked it up, Nate put together a band and Out_Circuit hit the road, destined for greatness with their meld of post-hard core power and Radiohead-esque expressions, lush keyboard work and driving bass lines. They were poised for greatness. Then life got in the way.
Nathan met his wife Rachel, they got married and moved along to Seattle to start their family. As a friend I was happy for these wonderful people, but knew that their time as musicians had pretty much come to an end (Rachel was the vocalist for The Beauty Pill). I figured any shot at getting another Out_Circuit record, despite Nate’s statements to the contrary, were very long. Five years later, and quite unexpectedly, Nate has returned with Pierce the Empire with a Sound.
The central formula of face splitting, master drumming (provided by Andy Gale from the last incarnation of the group) and Nate’s driving and burning bass lines is present in this album, but it’s Nate’s love of atmosphere and his almost total abandonment of guitars that sets this record apart from anything you will hear in 2008. Inspired by Lungfish as much as Low, Nate Burke creates a world that you not only hear but feel. The music is dark and powerful, but also comforting and soothing.
At the center of the album the song “Hexagon” sits with a slashing distorted bass line, text book accurate drumming all holding up the foundation of light keyboard work. As the song hits it’s striding climax it breaks off into digital sound, losing the flight into a darkness and then turns into a beautiful, mid tempo ending of Piano. This is the apex experience of The Out_Circuit, and within it you will lose your self. It is a spiritual moment, like meditation, you forget everything, feel nothing and remain in the joy you have found.
This album is very personal to me. I haven’t seen or spoken to Nate since he left the best coast for the left coast. I miss him dearly, a true human being if ever there was one and a genuine man. I sometimes feel guilty that I met him through the practice of my fetish, my guilty pleasurable world of used 7”s, advanced copies of punk rock albums and random purchases of indie rock and grind core. But I am so glad that I did have that friendship with this man. I don’t know if it deepens my attachment to this album, or makes me biased towards the work, but I don’t really care. I want people to hear this music as much today as I did all those years ago when I first heard it. Please, do yourself a favor, get Pierce the Empire with a Sound, today, now, you will not be disappointed.