Album Review

In Circles

In Circles

by Shes So Rad

Round Trip Mars
7.8 / 10
15th August 2011

Reviewed by Ricardo Kerr

After many years working under and amongst luminaries of New Zealand music, prolific muso Jeremy Toy (Opensouls, Hollie Smith, Sommerset) has for us his very first solo record under the moniker She’s So Rad. The album is In Circles and it is a sublime synthesis of the man’s tastes, influences, and loves. Inside you will find a loving recreation of the sounds of the 80s and 90s with a human’s touch at the core of its ramshackle heart. As the unifying element across the album, it is Toy’s presence that you are drawn to. His voice positively dances through the album and develops as a constant motif of the She’s So Rad sound. Sometimes it will be a thin and sharply prominent instrument, and at others it will be multi-tracked and lurking underneath the swell of guitar sprawl. It manages to be consistent without becoming tiresome.

What is obvious upon hearing the In Circle is just how broad the different elements drawn together. Crisp electro beats give way to brooding goth dirges touching on everything from grunge to classic hip hop. The warmth and heart of the punk sound interplays nicely with the iciness of the vintage electronics and synths. On ‘Iceblock’ glistening retro synths glide over a deep cutting bass throb. ‘Georgie’s Song’ starts out like a tragic 808 disco ballad, complete with aching female vocals, that turns darker and heavier as it heads towards the dramatic death-march coda. It can be ominous at times sure, but there is real person with a real sense of humour behind all of it. Some pieces are more playful like ‘Restless’, a perfect tune to close out an album and leave a smile on your face. It seems like it was always Toy’s intention to cast a wide net for inspiration and synthesize them (no pun intended) into a wide-reaching cohesive conclusion.

Like all good post punk the effects being used to alter the instruments play an enormous part on the album, adding character and atmosphere all over the place. The coming-down-a-hallway effect used on Format only enhances the knife-edge garage rock therein. ‘Fourtrax’ mutates a brokedown piano stomp into a harsh blacklight dreamscape. ‘Disco’, a floating slow burner of a song, has a dense guitar strum in the vein of Smashing Pumpkins back when Billy Corgan had hair.

She’s So Rad is ultimately a bit like a vanity project on a budget. It is through the drive and temperament of one man that it exists and that man deserves serious congratulations. In Circles is a class act considering its humble origins and stands well among the other musical projects that Jeremy Toy has had his hands all over. Well played, sir.

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