Geordie folk singer and razor-sharp chronicler of modern Britain Richard Dawson and Finnish experimental rock veterans Circle might seem an odd match on paper, but Henki, largely recorded in Pori, on Finland’s west coast before the pandemic, defies expectations. Loosely based around botanists and plants (unless Ed Sheeran goes off-piste in the next five weeks, Silene is likely to be the standout song of 2021 written from the perspective of a 32,000-year-old seed), the seven songs here have been intricately crafted, with imaginative, constantly evolving arrangements highlighting Circle’s prog credentials.
There are also unexpectedly euphoric choruses too: the instrumental mid-section of Silphium makes like a more dissonant take on Xanadu-era Rush, then gradually builds momentum before exploding back to life again just before the 11-minute mark. Methuselah gallops along like a flora-fixated Iron Maiden as it tells the cautionary tale of Donald Currey, a researcher trying to find the oldest tree on Earth who only realised he’d found it after he’d cut it down in 1964. Throughout, there is so much going on that it takes many listens to absorb everything. But persevere and a tour de force of botanical rock takes form.