new album released Sept 29th
Boy From Black Mountain
Beat Circus is a band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 2002. The band is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist / singer-songwriter Brian Carpenter, who has been its only constant member since its inception. The music bridges several disparate genres including experimental music, progressive rock, cabaret, circus music, Appalachian string music, bluegrass music, old-time music, Southern Gospel, and funereal music.
In late 2006 near the completion of recording Dreamland, Carpenter's son was diagnosed with autism. While coping with this, Carpenter began writing a song cycle for the second part of the afore-mentioned trilogy, entitled Boy From Black Mountain. With the departure of Alec K. Redfearn and Matt McLaren, who wished to focus on their band The Eyesores, Carpenter formed the third incarnation of Beat Circus in 2007, casting himself as the lead vocalist with violinist Paran Amirinazari and violist Jordan Voelker as background vocalists, and introducing a rockabilly-style rhythm section composed of upright bassist Paul Dilley of Reverend Glasseye, guitarist/banjoist Andrew Stern, and drummer Gavin McCarthy of Karate. Trombonist Doug LaRosa also joined the band that year. In fall 2008 Carpenter enlisted producer Sean Slade to record Boy From Black Mountain in Boston. In December 2008 New York City-based producer and engineer Bryce Goggin was brought on to mix the album. Boy
From Black Mountain reportedly marks yet another shift in direction, inspired by Carpenter's Southern heritage, Southern Gospel music, bluegrass music, and Southern Gothic writers, and is planned for a 2009 release.
album review from all music guide
If the overall conceit of theatrically minded indie rock with strings from an alternate-world Edwardian era has seemed a bit overwhelming at points in the early years of the 21st century -- in terms of discourse and attention if not necessarily chart success, admittedly -- it's not that the approach itself is inherently wrong. On their third album, Beat Circus are at once perfectly representative of an aesthetic that touches on everything from Chris Ware illustrations to vaudeville romanticism, while possessing a few twists to keep Boy from Black Mountain from being "just" another such album. It helps that bandleader Brian Carpenter has an ear not only for energetic performances but a growling edge in his voice that suggests Tom Waits more than Chautauqua pageants -- it's not a question of "rocking out" so much as avoiding an eternal stateliness at the expense of all else. His band's pretty sharp as well, with performances (and arrangements) easily shifting from stop-on-a-dime rave-ups to lusher, more contemplative ballads. Another sign of his ear and eye for creative fusions comes in the guest appearance of the marvelously inventive Larkin Grimm on four songs, her own sense of strong performance adding even further spark to songs like the rushed "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" and "As I Lay Dying," the latter arguably the album's highlight, a giddy reflection on mortality and family memory. This all said, Boy from Black Mountain does often feel less like a creative extension than a codification of an approach, one with its own flair but ultimately seemingly designed to have its tracks appear somewhere on a playlist in between the National and Gogol Bordello. Time may well help Beat Circus stand out more strongly, but for right now they've found themselves unintentionally trapped in a larger context.