She’s Made of Saints
A few weeks ago, Circe’s single “Ruined Your Sons” was sent to us at The Typescript; it’s a chillingly haunting fog of synths surmounted by an ethereal soprano voice, delicate but rich, like an exquisite mousse from a top patisserie. It immediately put me in mind of the earliest days of 4AD, not any specific artist but the vibe that flowed around This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, those early synth/goth/art acts who seemed to care about atmosphere more than anything. Finding out that her first EP was on the close horizon got me more than slightly excited.
That EP, called She’s Made of Saints from a line in “Ruined Your Sons”, is here. And honestly, it’s good.
If I were boiling down She’s Made of Saints to a single word, it would be lush. Circe’s textures are spot on – airy and light, growling and brooding, wider than the Channel. There’s a richness to the tones that makes the term “atmospheric” a little disingenuous; it’s not a wispiness you chase, it’s a denseness that lays over you. In some ways Circe’s sound is iterative of some of the names she cites as influences – there’s certainly a good piece of the slower synth side of Björk in there – but her songwriting is clean enough to call it non-derivative. All told, a pleasant listen.
She’s Made of Saints has one singular, ginormous First World Problem: “Ten Girls” – the first full song after the short instrumental title track opener – is such a blazingly good track that it’s honestly difficult to pay attention to what follows. Its big wall-of-fuzz synth drives hard, the refrain of “I will not be a plague / in the sequence / of these secrets” stays in your head forever, and then there’s these fantastic reverse gate drum fills (which hit me directly in the nostalgia spot, but really they’re legit amazing). I found it really hard to not just keep skipping back to the start as I listened to the EP, and that’s with a song I already knew I liked a lot coming after it. “Ten Girls” is that good, like “I have to really look at my best-of list again” good. Listen to it:
The rest of She’s Made of Saints is also really good, it just has a tough act to follow (and largely abandons the aggressiveness of “Ten Girls”). “Ruined Your Sons”, while softer, still carries a fair bit of bite while it lyrically skewers toxic masculinity; its harsh drum machine crack keeps the song from drifting too far towards the clouds. “Dancer” – the latest single, a gaze at the seductive danger of cults – and the closer, “Steve Harrington”, float out towards the horizon effortlessly; in particular, the sparseness of the verses on “Dancer” has a true beauty to it. The only other track – “I Don’t Wanna Die Here” – almost connects “Ten Girls” to the rest of the record, opening in soft haunting mode and blossoming into a pulsing urgency a little under a minute in. It’s quality stuff, feels quite coherent.
As a whole, Circe has made a solid debut with She’s Made of Saints. Dark, vibrant, both soft and fierce, it’s a record with few flaws and serious upside. It feels on the forward edge of synthwave while simultaneously recalling some foundational parts of the art/synth/atmosphere genres. I’m more than a little interested to see where Circe goes from here.
Pros: Amazing tones. Good songwriting. “Ten Girls” just hit my short list for song of the year.
Cons: How well it opens makes the other songs feel almost like a letdown – even though they’re very good on their own. The rest of the record doesn’t share much sonically with “Ten Girls”, making its best track an outlier.
Bottom Line: It’s her first record, and a lot of artists peak lower than this. Give “Ten Girls” a few spins now, then come back to the rest in an hour or two.