Into A Circle who were Bee and Barry Jepson were also known at various times as In Two A Circle and In 2 A O. Prior to Into A Circle, Bee and Barry were members of Getting the Fear, alongside Buzz (guitar) and Aky (drums). Formed from the remnants of Southern Death Cult – vocalist Ian Astbury went on to form Death Cult and subsequently The Cult – and although they gigged regularly, they released only one single, ‘Last Salute’ / ‘We Struggle’, on RCA. The group were beset with problems: a major record label, RCA, that didn't know how to market them and an audience that expected a continuation of Southern Death Cult. Despite their short lived tenure they recorded two Radio 1 sessions: one for David Jensen and one for Janice Long. They appeared on the Oxford Road Show television programme where they were interviewed and performed ‘Yurune’.

Bee and Barry formed Into A Circle after the split of Getting The Fear. After months of rehearsals, Into A Circle performed their first show as support to Nico, who along with Patti Smith was one of singer Bee's heroes, at the Croydon Underground in December 1985, with Bee resplendent in a clear plastic suit, designed by one of London's Kings Road boutique Boy designers, containing KY and talc in its layers and adorned by tubes and syringes.

Attempting to bridge the gap between Getting The Fear and Into A Circle in 1985 they issued their debut release a sensual reworking of Getting The Fear's ‘Rise’, a song about sexual initiation extolling the virtues of genital piercing. Released on 12–inch in an edition of 5000 copies it remains one of the sexiest records I've heard. Bee brought to Getting The Fear – and subsequently Into A Circle – an intimate understanding of body piercings which resulted in appearances in the pages of Forum and an early edition of the Sunday Sport under the headline “Bernie the Bolt”, in a short article about his ampallang piercing—performed by the esteemed piercist Mr Sebastian aka Alan Oversby.

Backed by the acoustic workings of ‘Gabriel’ and ‘And In Flames’ (a continual fixture in later set lists), the 12–inch release featured the bittersweet accompaniment of Rose McDowall, formerly one-half of the polka dotted pop–punk outfit Strawberry Switchblade. Rose befriended Bee and Barry at a London club and like Bee, Rose McDowall was associated with Psychic TV (and TOPY). Rose sung on Psychic TV's near chart hit ‘Godstar’ and provided vocals, just as Bee had done to a lesser extent, to associated travellers like Current 93 and Death In June. Although never a full member, Rose would appear on all subsequent Into A Circle releases and appeared live whenever commitments permitted.

After signing to Abstract Records in July 1986, Into A Circle released the ‘Inside Out’ EP, additionally featuring the tracks ‘Reward’, ‘Flow’ and ‘Field of Sleep’. With cover stills from Graham Bentley's Flesh Mechanics video on the cover, the EP featured guitars from Billy Morrison, who would later go on to join The Cult and Billy Idol's band, where he became a permanent fixture in the LA music scene. Commenting on an early live video recording from Colchester Town Hall he quipped: “I'm the stoned guy on the left with red hair that kinda wanders into frame every now and then!” Quite aptly ‘Inside Out’ was a drug filled goth flanged-romp about heroin addiction, while the acoustic and slide guitar tinged ‘Reward’ featured a rare lyrical outing from Barry. The flipside included the acoustic love song ‘Flow’ and ‘Field of Sleep’, a dreamy duet between Bee and Rose. ‘Inside Out’ was another indie success but subsequent live dates highlighted Bee and Barry's increasing dissatisfaction with session musicians who never managed to capture the feel of how the songs were originally written. In order to reflect the true sound of Into A Circle they reverted to a new live format involving backing tapes and drum machines incorporating slide projected visuals to enhance the atmosphere they were seeking.

Their next release ‘Forever’ reflected Into A Circle's new direction, and acted as a teaser for their forthcoming Assassins album. Released in two formats, the 7–inch version was more ambient while the 12–inch, co–produced with Larry Steinbachek of Bronski Beat, explored a more electronic disco sound. With Bee's powerful waiflike vocals augmented by the beautiful harmonies of Rose McDowall, ‘Forever’ and the flipside ‘O Siren’ represented a more atmospheric sound, with light guitar flourishes, far removed from their previous releases and the frustrating guitar sound that impacted their live performances. Now shorn of session musicians, Into A Circle recordings and subsequent live performances featured live instruments alongside ambient tapes, sampled and pre–recorded sounds and visual imagery creating an atmospheric moody ambience, closer to how the band originally envisioned their sound and vision.

Both ‘O Siren’ and ‘Forever’ invoked the angels Mikhail and Gabriel and the assassins commanded by Hassan i Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain. The following release, ‘Evergreen’ continued Into A Circle's fascination with religion and religous assassins. Drawing on Iain Sinclair's poem Lud Heat, and Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor a novelisation about sacred architect Nicholas Hawksmoor who designed churches across London to a magickal formulae—something which Alan Moore extrapolated to great effect in his Jack the Ripper based graphic novel From Hell. “The phallic limestone structure rises from the cities skin, In each marble pyramid a sacrifice of youth”, sang Bee over cyclical acoustic guitar strum. 'Evergreen' was a form of protective ritual entwining sexuality within the realm of sacred architecture, whose video, directed by Viv Albertine (of The Slits) received repeated rotation on the Saturday morning UK pop programme The Chart Show.

Into A Circle released their debut album Assassins in May 1988, gathering together both the ‘Forever’ and ‘Evergreen’ singles, with a moody cover portrait of a suited Bee (with simulated facial wounds) and Barry over Arabic text and graphics. Assassins brought forth the twin inspirations of Brion Gysin and his frequent collaborator author William Burroughs with the duo's enduring fascination with Islam. Assassins opened with one of the earliest Into A Circle tracks ‘Beneath Mikhail’, rendered in a sumptuous blend of ringing guitars, loping basslines and pulsing electro sequences; its spiritual uplift carried by Bee's reedy tones and Rose's breathy accompaniment to a dreamlike story about a statue. While ‘Beneath Mikhail’, ‘Evergreen’ and others operated within mystical and magickal spheres other tracks on Assassins such as the yearning ‘Over & Over’ and ‘Tender Skin’ featured a more sensualised form of pop music with stark funk guitars and electronics, adorned by beautiful vocals and harmonies from Rose McDowall. Wrapped up in imagery more redolent of S&M practices, ‘The Swinging Tree’, a lilting ballad of sorts seemed concerned with fear and desire and a form of sexualised hunger, while paying homage to the world tree, Yggdrasil. Into A Circle's exhilarating sound betrayed a fascination with violent imagery given flight on the title track, ‘Assassins’, concerning Hassan i Sabbah, and his murderous band of Hashishins he commanded from a fortress in Alamut. A song for Brion Gysin, it was atmospheric and moody, and although rich in percussive hand drums and recorders, I like others, still prefer the nascent version found on Thai Tapes, one of two mail order cassettes of demos Into A Circle issued and sold at live shows.

The group's interest in Islam seeped into the tracks ‘'Elim’ and ‘Allah Akhbar’. The ambient acoustic chant ridden ‘'Elim’ spliced religious fanaticism with sexualised imagery, culling lyrics from ‘Judas’, an early track and other lyrics which would later surface on ‘Beirut’, one of many Into A Circle tracks that unfortunately never received a proper studio airing, while ‘Allah Akhbar’, the most abstract track on Assassins, contained Islamic chant proclaiming “God is great” over a haunting combination of hand drums such as tablas, bodhran and recorders.

Assassins closed on ‘Seraphin Twin’, its first person narrative drawing on the Bou Jeuloud ritual, which formed part of the annual Pipes of Pan festival which takes place in a mountain village in northern Morocco where a young village boy is stitched up in goat skins—as documented by Brion Gysin in Here to Go: Planet R–101 a book of interviews conducted by Terry Wilson and recorded by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones on the album Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka. With pulsating electro sequences and rush of guitars, the scintillating flow of climaxes within ‘Seraphin Twin’ ensured it was destined to become a live favourite of Into A Circle live sets.

Into A Circle never released another record. They continued to tour where alongside live favourites such as ‘Seraphin Twin’ and the unreleased ‘Stitches’ they continued to include reworkings of Getting The Fear tracks written primarily by Bee and Barry which resulted in the inclusion of ‘Swell’ and the Susan Atkins fixated ‘Dune Buggy Attack’ – one of many Getting The Fear's tracks inspired by the philosophy of Charles Manson – in their 1987 tours. By their later dates in 1989, where they were accompanied by Annie Anxiety, before she transformed into Little Annie, they contemplated a name change to either Ugly or Big World Café. These later shows featured more mainstream pop tracks as ‘Intellectual’, ‘Feel The Night’, ‘Drunk Stupid’, ‘My Little Pony’ and ‘Take Control’ alongside Getting The Fear tracks which became more prevalent in their live sets to the extent that their final show at the Fulham Greyhound on 26 October 1989 only featured ‘Seraphin Twin’ from their recorded output with a nine track set featuring three reworked Getting The Fear tracks, alongside four new tracks, with one performed twice.

It was a sorry end to a propitious start. In the intervening years Bee moved to Thailand, forming the electro–clash outfit Futon, releasing three albums, and then Goo, a proto–punk outfit inspired by the Sex Pistols original raw recordings Spunk. Former Suede drummer Simon Gilbert featured in both Futon and Goo. Barry moved into tour management and began a career as a lecturer. An expanded edition of Assassins, bolstered by the 12–inches of Into A Circle was issued by Cherry Red Records in 2008, released incongruously as part of their Goth Collector Series.

Into A Circle released a number of essential releases. Their live shows mixing music with visual projections were stunning. Into A Circle were stifled by their inability to find an audience. Bee and Rose straddled the burgeoning “apocalyptic folk” genre singing with both Current 93 and Death In June, and yet their music was too pop for the post–industrial crowd, too wrapped up in mythology, ritual and transgressive sexual practices for the indie crowd. Often lumped in with the Goth genre; an association both Bee and Barry disparaged. They embraced dance music long before it was fashionable to do so. It would have been interesting to discover how things might have panned out had their projected support slot to Erasure not been thwarted by their record company who failed to provide the necessary financial backing. Into A Circle leave an impressive and much under rated discography and a number of unrecorded tracks such as ‘Stitches’ and ‘Beirut’ which are ripe for rediscovery.

An original biography can be read here.

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Thanks:
To Marc Beattie for some merchandise items and to Andi Finn, Paul Evangelista for some photos.