Back in 2004, I was pretty obsessed with Secret Machines, the trio from Dallas, Texas had just released their acclaimed debut album, Now Here Is Nowhere. With their blend of prog, krautrock and shoegaze, they felt wonderfully out of step with anything else anyone was doing at the time. Despite being widely tipped to be huge at the time, and their second album Ten Silver Drops even briefly bothering the top fifty, it never quite fell into place for the band, and after founding member, the sadly missed, Benjamin Curtis left to pursue his other band School of Seven Bells in 2007, they released just one more album before heading onto what at the time seemed to be a permanent hiatus. A decade of silence followed, before from almost nowhere they reappeared, with 2020’s return, Awake in the Brain Chamber, a collection of material they started working on after their reformation. All the while though was something of a question mark, because back in 2010, they had begun work on what has become something of a lost record, The Moth, The Lizard and the Secret Machines, a record paused, on which they recently decided to press play once more. The newly finished record will see the light of day tomorrow, and today the band are sharing the final taster of it, I Think It’s Light Outside.
The second track on The Moth, The Lizard and the Secret Machines, I Think It’s Light Outside is a delightfully odd affair, as drummer Josh Garza puts it, “at times it feels like it’s two or three different ideas playing at the same time to form one song”, yet despite that, it never quite falls into complete chaos, Josh nothing, “the concept of improvisation, experimentation and song being fused together with Brandon’s lyrics and vocals keeping the song from flying off the edge“. From the get-go, the instruments are locked in a battle, as tumbling guitar lines play off against fuzzy bass and the booming pound of snare drums, it’s disjointed in all the best ways. Towards the close, the drums drop out and the whole thing manages to get even more fabulously odd, all distant tinny vocals and tremulous electronic pulses, it’s the antithesis of radio-friendly and none the worse for it.
The Moth, The Lizard and the Secret Machines was a record originally written in the eye of a storm, a band pushed to a breaking point by a series of record business quirks that collided in front of them, and deciding to roll the dice, as Benjamin puts it, “we had nothing to lose…we were able to pull something together that made perfect sense for where our heads were at the time“. The result is an exercise in letting go, Benjamin recalling, “I fell in love with this record when I stopped trying to make it something it wasn’t — when I left enough space for creativity to bloom rather than holding on for dear life and squeezing so hard my knuckles would turn white.” So yes it might be a decade late, yet it still resonates, perfect in its imperfections, what Josh describes as, “the crazy album everybody knew we had in us“, was worth the effort and for fans of the band, more than worth the wait.
The Moth, The Lizard and the Secret Machines is out tomorrow. For more information on Secret Machines visit https://www.thesecretmachinesofficial.com/.