Advances in recording technology be damned, there is a hardcore of audiophiles who will never be dissuaded that vinyl is not the best medium for reproducing sound with many bands still favouring the format, among them Pearl Jam who have been known to hold back the compact disc versions of their albums until after the vinyl and who once released a single titled Spin the Black Circle.
Undeniably, there is a romance to vinyl, a physical connection to the sound replicated in the grooves carved when the original music was created in the studio without ever having been rendered in the cold intermediate format of numbers for digital processing and transmission, particularly old records, first pressings inextricably tied to the era from which they hark and carrying with them decades of inherited memory and import.
Celeste and Isa are sisters with a distant and somewhat awkward relationship; Celeste struggling with her studies and unable to focus on the paper she needs to complete, she visits her elder sister who tells her that she has gone through the same and recommends an unlikely source of help which was of enormous benefit to her, a vintage long playing record issued by the Stockholm Institute for Magnetic Research.
The album comprising one side of instructions to be listened to in daylight and a second side of magnetic hypnotism to be played as the listener settles down to sleep, Celeste initially awakens from her nocturnal trance focused, motivated and productive, but there are side effects from which her sister is now suffering
Her earlier confidence having evaporated, Isa is now convinced that she is being followed by a sinister figure, while Celeste has had nightmares of a decaying figure in her bed, of colours shifting and melting into the ether. Attempting to understand what is happening, they track down Lena Carlsson, daughter of the founder of the Institute, a woman of formidable power who has tried to eradicate the legacy she has inherited.
Written and directed by Here Comes the Devil‘s Adrián García Bogliano and screened in the FrightFest strand of the Glasgow Film Festival, Black Circle (Svart Cirkel) is a psychedelic psychological thriller exploring the lingering vestiges of a cult movement whose very real power is manifested through the hypnotic sounds and words of the albums distributed during their heyday.
An icon of Swedish cinema, They Call Me One Eye‘s Christina Lindberg is Lena Carlsson, attempting to help Celeste and Isa (Felice Jankell and Erica Midfjäll) even as she fears that one of the sisters may be too far gone, the process required to reintegrate “the expelled double of ethereal energy” as much ritual as science in a film composed in equal parts of acting and surreal performance art.
A mixup of seventies new ageism and deeper folklore which crafts its magic largely through traditional techniques, lighting and optical effects such as superimposition, Black Circle is an offbeat cover version of Star Trek‘s The Enemy Within performed by the Lords of Salem working with analogue equipment, an experiment unlikely to ride high in the charts but which those in the know will enthusiastically discuss and dissect.