In his press material, Aron Kirk notes that he intended Brick Circus to be a narrative of a portion of his life. If that's the case, then Brick Circus is a tearjerker based on pained memories, a melancholy tale thick with the ache of loss, the pain of distance, and the echoes of loneliness. This is sonic portraiture at it's best, sound imagery drawn in a steady hand from a photographic memory, each captured moment rendered with it's perfect truth intact. While Brick Circus blends an array of instrumentation, sound samples, and vocals, it's Kirk's heartbreakingly simple piano that forms the basis. He plays sparsely and slowly and with alarmingly unassuming grace, each note drawn to it fullest dramatic length before being released, each chord a carefully chosen word in the ongoing story. Kirk's strength across the tracks of Brick Circus is his ability to seamlessly pair the darker intentions and strong emotive threads in his songs with infectious beats. It's an odd melding of sensations-rocking out just a bit to something that's at once beautiful and sad. But it works, especially in tracks like "No Coincidence," "Brick Circus" and "Long Time Til September," where the beat waits patiently for it's cue and gently insinuates itself only after the piano has had it's quiet say. Conversely, on "The Pleasure of Arson," Kirk just flat-out rocks with a jumpy beat, thick-chord piano and electronic wooshes in the back. It's surprisingly upbeat, given the overall tone of the disk. But when Kirk wants to drop the emotional hammer on the listener, he does so effectively and with ease as well. Try getting out from under the sighing canopy of "Behold, the Bitterness," the chant-accented "I Prayed for the Damage" or the almost unbearably somber "Empty Together" without thinking just a bit about your own various worries and moments of sadness. Kirk draws them out through his phrasing. Overall Brick Circus is a dark and quirky album that borders-by design-on being unsettling. But the darkness forces you to look into it and to try to understand what's going on. And the more you look, the more you want to look and the more you want to understand. Luckily, Brick Circus bears up under that kind of close scrutiny and repeat listens. John Shanahan. The Hypnagogue.