Jon Dennis 

Readers recommend: songs about circles – results

The time has come round again for this week's RR playlist
  
  

Another week, another Readers Recommend theme, regular as clockwork. Last week's call for songs about circles solicited some profoundly heady adventures into the subconscious and expressions of the natural patterns of our very existence.

Andalucian composer Manuel de Falla's beautiful El Círculo Mágico (The Magic Circle) forms part of his 1915 ballet El Amor Brujo, when Gypsies dance in a circle round a campfire to banish ghosts. As RR regular Makinavaja, a resident of Spain, explains, it's heavy with "the symbolism of the circle and the coven and the concentration of supernatural powers within the unbroken circle".

There've been many versions of the swirling, dizzying (admittedly nonsensical) Windmills of your Mind, the hit theme to The Thomas Crown Affair. Mo Wax duo Psychonauts sampled Billy Paul's lovely version for their truly trippy Circles, from their sole album, Songs for Creatures (2003). It segues nicely into Dusty Springfield's superior reading of Windmills …, from her game-changing 1969 album Dusty in Memphis (vocals recorded in New York, fact fans).

Kieran Hebden goes all Steve Reich on us on Four Tet's Circling, creating a expanse of rippling harmony while banks of arpeggios whirl. RR commenter loyatemu says: "The title really describes the path of the music, constantly revolving around repeating phrases, never resolving."

The Carter Family's 1927 recording of Can the Circle be Unbroken is "one of the great moments in American recorded music", says RR regular BeltwayBandit of AP Carter's arrangement of a hymn concerning the life-death cycle.

House of Circles, from Cleveland duo Mr Gnome's 2011 album Madness in Miniature, is a stirring, powerful concoction, structurally original. No idea what it's about; sex and drugs, I shouldn't wonder.

Circle, a 1967 masterpiece by Miles Davis's second quintet (featuring Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter), is described by RR jazz expert nilpferd as "one of his most beautiful ballads, whose structure describes the title", while chris7572 applauds its "vibrancy, invention and ability not to let anything go on too long".

"Round and round" goes the relationship in Pete Townshend's Circles, a 1966 single on Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label by Southampton band the Fleur de Lys, fine purveyors of what later became known as freakbeat. It actually bears comparison with the Who's original: crashing chords, explosive drumming, big harmonies.

Gene Clark's Full Circle Song (also known as Full Circle, and also recorded for a reunion album by ex-bandmates the Byrds) concerns his luckless experience with the wheels of fate. It's a simple song, but Clark's aching voice suggests a complex, tragic reality.

As well as being a peerless arranger, producer and songwriter, Isaac Hayes had a beautiful singing voice, and he turns Friends of Distinction's Going in Circles into epic orchestral soul. Like much of the music on this theme, it has a hypnotic, dream-like effect. Laurie Anderson's Smoke Rings, meanwhile, are of mirage, illusion and desire, a bewildering and enchanting meditation on a grand scale.

But circles also suggest routine, and a peeved Houston bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins rails not against grinding poverty and social injustice, but – somewhat improbably – unreliable friends, a Thanksgiving dinner and his humdrum life in Walking Round in Circles, from 1962.

Here's the playlist:

El Círculo Mágico - Manuel de Falla (pianist: Alicia de Larrocha)

Circles – Psychonauts

Windmills Of Your Mind – Dusty Springfield

Circling – Four Tet

Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By) – The Carter Family

House of Circles – Mr Gnome

Circle – Miles Davis

Circles – The Fleur de Lys

Full Circle Song – Gene Clark

Going in Circles – Isaac Hayes

Smoke Rings – Laurie Anderson

Walking Round in Circles – Lightnin' Hopkins

* Listen to these songs on a YouTube playlist

* Read all the readers' recommendations on last week's blog, from which I've selected the songs above

* Here's a Spotify playlist containing readers' recommendations on this theme

* We'll reveal the next Readers Recommend topic at guardian.co.uk/readersrecommend at 10pm on Thursday