Secret Machines – Live at The Bowery Ballroom – April 13, 2004 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Secret Machines in concert tonight – live at The Bowery Ballroom and recorded on April 13, 2004.
A band that’s receive the blessings and admiration of no less than David Bowie and Brian Eno, they were one of the movers and shakers in the neo-Prog movement in the early 2000s (although they consider themselves influenced by a lot of genres, not just Prog). They have, from various accounts, been described as one of the loudest bands on earth, but also one of the most sincere and inventive.
I remember when their MySpace page got a lot of people interested, but also concerned that the band might not gain the much needed attention in order to survive. That part was wrong – their debut album was well received and sold very well considering being a Progrock band in 2004 and possibly a tough sell.
No, the timing was right – and they made their mark. Unfortunately there were personnel changes which brought about an extended hiatus for some regrouping and soul-searching.
But they are back after a 10+ year hiatus, this time as a two-piece (founding member Benjamin Curtis passed away in 2013). A new album Awake In The Brain Chamber came out in August of 2020 (smack in the middle of COVID and Lockdowns) and it’s been eagerly anticipated.
Their Bandcamp page offers a pretty good summation of what’s been going on with Secret Machines:
In a world turned upside down, The Secret Machines are back, and looking for light in the chaos. Awake In the Brain Chamber, the band’s fourth LP and first recorded output in more than ten years, is the sound of things falling apart, with the hope of dawn touching the horizon. If there is a crack in everything, Curtis and Garza are more interested in the light coming in. Curtis’ darkly prophetic lyrics speak of isolation and fear, while Garza’s frenetic, pounding drum beats sound of the four horsemen. But just when things look their worst, the Machines’ beautifully ethereal space-rock takes us away to a different, safe destination: A place with angels, where dreaming is alright, and life blooms from a new disaster.
One of the most acclaimed rock bands of the 2000s, the Secret Machines helped define the sound of the era, alongside contemporaries Interpol, Spiritualized, and TV on the Radio. Laden with sprawling arrangements occasionally pushing the 9 minute mark, the sound of the band has always been grandiose, and in their 2008 review of the band’s third self-titled album, Pitchfork made comparisons to Machines influences Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Alternately labeled as prog, Curtis and Garza have always been most comfortable with the term “space rock.” “Brandon’s songs and my drumming meld into the sonic landscape that is Secret Machines,” says Garza from his home in Los Angeles. “I think people will be able to hear that immediately on this album.”
Needless to say, once again their timing is spot-on.
But for a sample of what they were up to when they were just getting off the ground, crank up this show from 2004 as a reminder they’ve always had something to say.
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