Within this album, Circular Keys has created a realm of their own, shrouded in fog from afar but is full of life and colour within. This is an album that is hard to put down – out of mind – as it is within the mind that this album grows and thrives.
One of those rare outfits that cause intrigue and feverish acclaim is the Melbourne-based two-piece, Circular Keys. Consisting of Dennis Santiago and Philippa O’Shea, the duo has existed as a mysterious entity on the fringe of underground Australian sonic output thanks to a series of unheralded releases that consist of wraithlike effervescence, as well as a hesitance towards placing themselves too far forward in the limelight. Dennis Santiago has also been known to write and perform with Absolute Boys (among other outfits) and it is (most likely) through his work with Absolute Boys on their last LP that the relationship with the indomitable Bedroom Suck Records formed. In early July, Circular Keys released Sorry through Bedroom Suck, an album that has threatened to float under the radar and is yet to receive the praise that it deserves.
Sorry is an album that dabbles in dream-like concepts, situated in another realm. It acts as an aural portal to the world that exists purely in sound and mind. The album conjures mental images of leaves covered in perpetual dew, of stars that shine and float close to earth, of caverns that wind beneath the earth where sounds echo and call and lead to treasures buried deep. This is an album of alien strangeness, gentle hostility and obscure caresses; inviting and imprisoning at the same time.
After an introductory segment, Sorry bursts to life with ’Baby (Lite)’, one of two singles that emerged in the lead-up to the LP’s release. The song pulses like an approaching rainstorm, approaching on the breeze off the coast. Static beats fall like water drops into a turquoise lagoon, causing ripples through water that glows from beneath. Philippa’s voice alternates from fragmented to pristine and soaring R’n’B and is the sweet fruit covered by the fuzzy skin of Dennis Santiago’s production. ‘Child (Eurogrand)’ is another cut that emerged in 2014 and is a song that takes me deep underground. Sounds are reverberating through subterranean caves that glitter with exotic minerals. The echoing refrain of “bring out the child in me” stirs an inner-desire to return to the days of youthful wonder, a feeling that I can’t shake during listening.
‘Sorry (Reprise)’ features beats that wouldn’t be unheard of in contemporary electronica. Delicate and pattering beats, overlayed again by haunting vocals from O’Shea keep things interesting. I hear her singing “somebody help me”, echoing like she is always just out of reach. ‘Sorry (Reprise)’ is buoyed by sparse piano repetition, keeping the song in a nice recline. A few tracks on and I’m blinded – ‘Diamond’ gleams and sparkles; it strikes with high pitched notes that pierce the atmosphere and are propelled by a blunt knock. O’Shea’s distorted vocals float unhindered, sounding so soulful even when manipulated. The journey comes to an end with ‘Somehow’; this song could loop for hours and I’d be fine with that; it’s caressing and nurturing. It ends the album with a peaceful drift away; not holding on and not encouraging you to let go – just fading away.
Within this album, Circular Keys has created a realm of their own, shrouded in fog from afar but is full of life and colour within. This is an album that I want to soundtrack my dreams or even my life – just to add a bit more majesty to the mundane. Circular Keys should be commended for their attention to creating lush soundscapes and the manipulation of noise to evoke emotional response. This is an album that is hard to put down – out of mind – as it is within the mind that this album grows and thrives.