Thursday, 22 January 2009

Review: Secret Birds - Double Snake Hollow

First things first. Secret Birds may be one of the loudest and potentially most abrasive bands in Brisbane, but their music is subtle. This is especially true of their debut release, Double Snake Hollow; a cassette-only EP filled with repetitive instrumental jams that evolve ever so gradually over their lengthy running times.

Take the first song, 'Christopher Cross'. Made up of various drones created via guitar feedback, synths and effects laden guitar 'solos' (with a steady rhythm being tapped away in the background) the song barely seems to move, instead just kind of floating in mid air. Sure, it does change over its 12minutes but the changes are always relatively minor, and given that each change tends to be brought in over the course of a minute or so it's easy to not recognise that there has been a new addition to the track until it's already been there for a considerable time.

'Wizard's Cloak' starts of with more synth and effects drones, this time even more formless than before. After 5minutes of this, though, an acoustic guitar emerges from the aural fog, picking out a beautiful folk arpeggio for the remaining 2minutes. At this point the song sounds more like something from Anonymeye, and it's quite an unexpected turn for those mostly familiar with the band's noisy live shows (although I believe that the 'band' originally started out more in this style).

The 12minute title track closes out the EP with a sound that will be far more familiar to those who have seen any of the band's recent live incarnations. Consisting of a hugely distorted guitar repeatedly playing a three chord riff backed (again) by droning synths, this is the sort of doom-laden rock that Secret Birds have become synonymous with over the last year or two. It's also the least effective track on the EP, pretty much following the formula of 'big guitar riff, add in background noises which gradually get louder, eventually bring in the drums'. Live this can be extremely satisfying, but in the confines of this recording the effect is lessened significantly. Sure, it's hypnosis inducing, but so were the two previous tracks, both of which had a more unique and interesting method of producing their effects.

Ultimately this is still a worthwhile release for fans of Secret Birds - personally I find the first two tracks really enjoyable, and the third is moderately effective in the context of the release as a whole. I think that 'Secret Birds: the live entity' and 'Secret Birds: the recording project' need different approaches, as without the enormous volume and visceral physicality of actually being in the room with the band the music struggles to have the same impact as it does live. When highlighting the trance inducing aspects as opposed to the raw power of the band, this recording is much more successful. The interesting thing to see will be whether Secret Birds continue down that particular path, or whether they are able to more successfully replicate their live power in a recorded setting.

You can hear Wizard's Cloak and Double Snake Hollow on the band's myspace. Secret Birds are playing as part of two really good lineups in the next few days (alongside other great bands like Deux Garcon, Loomer and the mighty No Anchor), so I recommend catching them.

1 comment:

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