Circular Keys are an enigma. Born out of Dennis Santiago’s previous project, Absolute Boys, this mysterious two piece comprising of Santiago (guitars, processing) and Philippa O’Shea (vocal) work across borders, never appearing to be in the same place at the same time. Performances by the band are rare, and are witnessed breathlessly by those fortunate enough, as though sighting an endangered species.
With this, their debut full-length, Santiago has taken his trademark guitar work (originally developed in the Sydney post-hardcore band Eucalypt, later to flourish in the heavily influential minimalist punk outfit Ohana) to the nth degree. Chord patterns and melodies are processed beyond comprehension, allowing a simple strum of this overworked and exhausted instrument to transform into a plethora of electronic sounds, of deep alleyways and crystal peaks.
While Santiago structures his compositions by a completely innovative and almost industrial method, O’Shea approaches from the other side of a distant field. Her approach to the songwriting is organic; a crystal clear melody will ring over electronically crafted rhythm and continually spiralling echoes, cutting straight through the mire to shine like a beacon.
It is a vicious record, a stark contrast of over-processed and abrasive electronics, juxtaposed against O’Shea’s angelic voice. The results can be startling, and yet throughout the entire journey, colliding elements will rapidly transform into a few minutes of pure ecstasy and pop bliss.