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The Secret Machines - Now Here Is Nowhere CD (album) cover


The Secret Machines


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.07 | 25 ratings

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3 stars This is yet another 21st century band that seems to have managed to create a blend of retro and modern sounds that is quite appealing. In their case the retro part pretty much consists of quite a few pretty obvious influences – Bowie (circa Scary Monsters), Smashing Pumpkins, maybe a little Dave Gilmour on some of the slower numbers (“Leaves Are Gone”, “Pharaoh’s Daughter”). The modern part comes from taking what on the surface appear to be simply pop lyrics and guitar riffs (perhaps a bit edgy, but really not progressive or even psychedelic in the tradition sense) and creating arrangements that for the most part are quite ear-grabbing.

Nowhere is Nowhere is the band’s first full-length album, and features largely drums, guitar, and bass, although there are some synthesized sound effects thrown in. The band shows some clear signs of growing pains while evolving a style. This is particularly evident in the arrangement of the tracks which doesn’t follow any kind of discernable pattern, and in the tendency on the latter half of the album to bring some songs to a close before they seem to actually be finished (“Light’s On”, “Nowhere Again”).

And there are a few misses, to be sure. “Leaves Are Gone” is an eerie, brooding work very much in the vein of Pink Floyd’s the Wall and the Final Cut (“Your Possible Pasts”, “One of My Turns”), only without the obligatory guitar/drum explosion somewhere in the middle. This is either a song about the end of a summer romance, or suicide, not really sure. Maybe both. Anyway, the guitar is much too Gilmour, the vocals way too self- indulgent, and the overall effect leaves me slightly bored. Also I find it a bit annoying that a guy from Texas now living an artist’s life in New York is trying to affect a vague British accent. That really needs to go.

But the band seems to have a knack for crafting somewhat lengthy tracks that blend progressive rhythms and arrangements with sometimes grunge lyrics, and piles of the finest white-noise guitar feedback I’ve heard it years.

The best track is probably the opening one. “First Wave Intact” starts off with a a stark beat and kind of an interesting guitar riff. The riff gets worked a bit too much, almost as if the guys are pretty proud of what they’ve come up with and want to make sure we all know how clever they are. I actually started to get a bit bored by around the six- minute mark or so the first time I heard this. But the last two or three minutes erupt in a really intense blend of guitar white-noise, cymbal-heavy spastic drumming, and some sort of non-descript keyboards that blend with that intangible sense of rhythm that only the best bands of that style can muster. If the band could have gotten to that point a bit sooner this would be pretty close to a five-star song.

“Sad and Lonely” has a better blend of tempos and sounds than the opening track. This does tiptoe into psychedelic territory at times, but manages to maintain a very catchy rhythm due largely to some fine work on bass.

Another track where the singer seems to be trying to turn British is “Nowhere Again”. This sounds like so many post-punk bands that came out of the mid 80s with rather vapid lyrics and unoriginal drums and bass, but here again the guitarist does a great job of finding the balance between noise for the sake of noise, and a decent sense of rhythm. The ending is kind of abrupt though.

“You Are Chains” is another track that works its way into feedback territory, but also includes a very appealing piano accompaniment, and some psychedelic-leaning synthesizer that adds a bit to the mood. This sounds like a path the band needs to explore further as it leverages their edginess with a more robust sound that will give them more options in the studio.

“Light’s On” is another decent track highlighted by the excellent guitar work, and limited a bit by the modest vocals. Here again the ending is kind of abrupt.

This is a very early effort by a band that seems to have quite a bit of promise. I actually liked the album quite a bit, even after initially thinking it was pretty forgettable. The guitarist has a great knack for rich and powerful sounds, his vocals are also pretty good. The drummer is passable but not outstanding – more emphasis on keyboards will hopefully deemphasize his shortcomings. The bassist is solid at times and seems to be lost at others. Overall this is a good first effort. I need to pick up their new Ten Silver Drops CD and see how they are maturing, but I get the impression these guys are serious and that they are going to be a solid force in the genre for a while to come. Three stars.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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