Secret Secrets: Chiromagica
Published: October 26, 2011
Why is it that psych-rock musicians prize the improvised jam as the secret key to opening the third eye wide, but it sometimes seems improvisers are supposed to be more concerned with cerebral ear expansion than trippy mind-blow? Not that one can necessarily outright ascribe the latter motives to Secret Secrets. But listening to Baltimore’s own Shana Palmer and Melissa Moore’s new recording on Baltimore’s own Ehse Records, one imagines them moving full-speed forward down some middle path between trippin’-balls sonic triggers and more rigorous/conscious duo improvisation.
Palmer (electronics and vocals) has built a practice of droning, quasi-songly improvisation under the handle Childe Bride; Moore (drums and guitar) sports a CV studded with multidisciplinary visual/audio art. On Chiromagica, they fit together like they were born to do this. Released on vinyl, the recording features a distinct side-one/side-two dynamic. Opener “Lunar Storm” announces itself with wordless percussive vocals from Palmer, looping and stacking and building amid jazzy rolls from Moore and the occasional bass tone, accruing layers and intensity as it goes. As the first half of the album progresses, it continues this drums/space duality, with Palmer’s vocals and electronics oscillating and droning, feeding into and off of Moore’s quasi-tribal drum patterns, hitting a peak with the echoing Jajouka vibe on “Down in the Hollow.” The second half/side offers more varied approaches, breaking the trance for keening percussion-free blues “Take to Taste the River” and sitar-droning “An Honest Descent.” Closer “Threshold Consciousness” comes off the most Red Room-ish of anything here as an ungainly squelching synth pulses over Palmer’s most extreme vocal attack, as she creates tones that blur the border between laryngeal sounds and friction instruments. Moore, meanwhile, drives it all forward, not so much keeping time as keeping an eye on it, until the whole track melts down into one throbbing mass.
Putting aside comparisons to this scene or that makes sense, ultimately, for Secret Secrets. The music on Chiromagica is no more likely to be a perfect fit at High Zero as at All Good. As its own sui generis collaboration/collision, it works modest wonders on both mind and ear.
Secret Secrets play the Whole Gallery (405 Franklin St., 3rd floor) Oct. 30. For more information, visit ehserecords.com.
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