Circus Underwater cover

Circus Underwater


Richard Sales and Jay Yarnall grew up together in Maryland in the late ‘50s, and became friends starting in third grade, though they only got around to making music together in the 1980s. Part of that was due to tragedy: while Yarnall was enlisted in 1967, he went AWOL to avoid Vietnam and instead wound up dosed with LSD on Haight-Ashbury, jumping out of a window headfirst and winding up a paraplegic (he later regained use of his arms). And when the two friends did decide to push the record button one day in 1982, it was after they had stayed up 28 hours straight on a cocktail of coffee and weed. The head-swimming result is Circus Underwater, a beguiling private press record recently rescued from obscurity by Soundway Records. “Rugaru by Itself” and “I Wash My Hair With Limes” might scan as guitar-centric hippies, but there are plenty of synths, drum machines, flutes, and other studio effects that nudge the results from noodly rock riffs towards some untrodden ground. It may have anticipated the likes of Emeralds and Four Tet’s folk-tronica and other bedroom sound dreamers, but Sales and Yarnall swim out to a singular place that few have ever reached.

Andy Beta

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