These guys are a real throwback to some old-school psychedelic rock. I ran into this album right when it came out, I was trolling around Soulseek or possibly even Audiogalaxy (bless its soul) and thought they sounded cool. I tend to download anything that has "secret" or "machine" in its name, it just sounds cool to me. Anyhow, I got a copy of it and was immediately hooked. They have such an incredible sound, like a kind of retro-future Pink Floyd, redoing Piper at the Gates of Dawn for the modern world. The only problem with it is that it clocks in at just under half an hour, long for an EP but damn short for an album. Fortunately, what actually is there makes up for its length many times over.
The first track is called "Marconi's Radio." I am going to describe
it at length because it has one of my favorite opening segments of all
time. The song begins with either a keyboard or a carefully picked,
highly filtered guitar playing an incredibly slow, slightly ominous
melody. It's literally 3 or 4 seconds between keys sometimes. After
going through the melody once, and I recommend listening to this on
headphones so you can hear it, tiny noises and creaks start showing up
in the background. Off in the distance, two drumsticks lightly
collide. After two minutes of this slowly evolving, a little more
constant feedback starts to fade in, and after another minute the wild
growl of a guitar being distorted past breaking point begins to rise in
volume. The keyboardist grows more bold and accompanying notes are
thrown in, and the song suddenly seems to be getting loud. It's
actually incredibly maddening, the tension being built up, and every
measure you want it to spill out into the beginning of the song, but
that won't happen until four and half minutes in. At that point, a
double kick drum heralds the arrival of distorted guitar in earnest.
Then, suddenly, the cacophany ends, as quick to stop as it was slow to
start. The singers voice jumps in, a Waters-esque rasp, backed by a
similarly Floydian chorus and accompanying electric guitar. The rest
of the song is quite as good as the opening, and it keeps changing up,
something which I appreciate a lot. << This paragraph has been
rendered moot by the inclusion of this track as an mp3 with this post,
but I'm going to keep it anyway.
There are a few more long songs and couple short ones; they are all very good. The Secret Machines are masters at controlling and releasing tension - as good as Godspeed at their best sometimes, though the former has a completely unique sound, owing much to 60s psych as well as modern stuff, but maintaining their own motif throughout. I got this album cheap, like six bucks, used at Amoeba, and so should you. I recommend it over their newer album which, while also good, is a little too thickly instrumentated and not nearly as fresh as September 000.