Deceptive, bittersweet love songs pervade the Flare sound -- a mixture of L.D. Beghtol's classically trained voice, his ukulele, and a collection of musical toys, as well as a small army of musicians including Jon DeRosa of Dead Leaves Rising and Aarktica, Mother West studio's owner Charles Newman, and Mark Gunderman on violin. The group is constantly in rotation with members of Iida, Magnetic Fields, and various others lending their musical eccentricities to the project.
Flare was started by painter Damian Costilla and Beghtol in 1996 as an outlet for their refined tastes in both art and music. They played intimate clubs across New York City where they attracted the attention of Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt and Claudia Gonson. In 1997, the group had grown with Ernest Adzentoivich (Plexus) on contrabass, Vin Scialla (Sunflower) on drums, and Holly Mcworter on violin. These five released Bottom in 1998. Here the band still concentrated on Beghtol's voice and Costilla's scattered guitar with background lilts of piano, strings, and machine noise. After Beghtol appeared as guest vocalist on the Fields' 69 Love Songs, Merritt remixed "Celebrate the Misery," a track from Bottom, for a single with a B-side cover of Everything But the Girl's "Another Bridge."
Costilla left the band in 1998 and there was a succession of instrumentalists until DeRosa joined on guitar, banjo, and vocals in 2000. The band, with a new lineup and direction, recorded Circa later that year. This mini-album draws on influences as diverse as the Incredible String Band and the Carter Family, and concentrates on subtle orchestration and clever, often dark lyrics. Live, the band presents a finicky yet intimate show with occasional crescendos of emotion that betray their distanced-observer stance as that of a supremely enraged ex-lover, friend, or still-burning foe. ~ Daphne Carr