She – Orion – 3.5/5
Let me begin by shattering a few basic expectations. 'She' is not female, but the pseudonym of a man called Lain Trzaska. With a name such as that you'd also be correct in thinking that, despite the Japanese woman on the front – an image of a woman generated entirely using photoshop - Japanese lyrics and vocals – really a composite of five different vocalists, but don't ask me how on earth that really works, just accept that it does – the Japanese label (Pony Canyon) to which they're signed and their popularity in – you guessed it – Japan, that he is not Japanese but Polish. That's two expectations already shattered, but let me drop on you one final bombshell; yes, he writes dance music, but to say that's all he does would be like saying 'King Crimson' made rock music. Both statements are true, but they're also grossly inaccurate and selling their influences far too short.
Now I wouldn't exactly call 'She' progressive but certainly within their respective context the comparison seems quite apt; both have penchants for concept albums for example, 'She' telling the continuing “Blade Runner” type story of the cyberkinetic replicant known only as “She,” (though I've read she has finally been given the name of Sarah, not that I would be able tell that from the music). Both artists also seem to release albums markedly different from their last, and neither have any issues taking multiple influences to fabricate their artwork. The fact is, I'm not sure there really is a decent way to classify this band and if there were, it'd change with each new release; the 'danceable' feeling certainly runs throughout it's course – bar a few ambient tracks – but the vocals lend an 'electropop' catchiness to the proceedings, using chiptune to provide an almost ethereal and ambient like atmosphere. It flows between these styles from track to track so fluidly, gradually introducing and replacing elements, that at first I thought it all a bit repetitive, and it's only when I listened a little closer that I realised just how different the album was closing, taking a far more downtempo approach from the dance anthems that open it.
And sadly, that's part of the problem I find myself with. There's a lot of styles on display and he restrains himself from throwing them all into one chaotic composition, but simply acknowledging that isn't enough. It doesn't engage me enough and the result is that it ends up feeling like something of a glorified dance album; one that at its best will have you tapping your toes and mouthing the words and at its worst, just drifting off pleasantly in the background. The whole concept is no doubt fully realised in the artists mind but doesn't yield enough detail to make more than a basic stab at what on earth is actually happening, the track listing and often Japanese language just adding more barriers to the understanding of the story; all I could really discern is that a woman escaped from some people who had her locked up and now she's running from them. It allows him to more readily add variety to the proceedings but, quite frankly, if you have to set up a portion of your website explaining everything, it feels as though admittance of failure. It's certainly something a little bit different, but is ultimately only a shadow of what it could have been.
Highlights: Atomic, Ride, Orion
Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 6 May 2012