The majority of any music that could be labeled as “prog” contains rhythms, tempos, and even melodies that are chopped, sliced, diced and zig-zagged. But what separates the Secret Machines from all of that is how their sound can include all of those elements, yet the basic shells of their songs all have a particular gliding sensation to them. While their 2004 phenomenal debut Now Here is Nowhere is bombastic in a way that was lightly peppered with some minimal Krautrock tinges, the Machines have taken a road on Ten Silver Drops that is somewhat more “songy” as one of the members describes. The melodies and hooks are somewhat arena-sized, “…and that’s…okay” to quote the daily affirmation of the self-help guru Stuart Smalley.
While it would be a little far fetched to label this disc as a concept album per se, one can’t really deny that that there is a feeling of a sort of enigmatic monograph looming around the songs. The opener “Alone, Jealous, and Stoned” remains tepid partially because their last album came in with a bang with “First Wave Intact” which means that the rabid fans may be a bit disappointed when their hair isn’t blown back right after they stick the CD in their stereo.
The songs can sound epic while retaining a minimalist shell so they’re not overdone, such as on “Lightning Blue Eyes,” which whirls around like a gentle funnel cloud of a crescendo. Amazingly enough the trio manages to merge dub with a state of impending doom and a lounge twist with “Daddy’s in the Doldrums.” “I Hate Pretending” is massively paranoid, which has the feel of being somewhat cut from the cloth of or even being a sequel of sorts to “The Road Leads Where it’s Led” but instead of Brandon Curtis singing “Blowing all the other kids away” in the lyrics he confirms that “There’s an undercover cop parked right across the road.” It is at this point where drummer Josh Garza makes his presence known with while booming on the skins as he does with the gentle ocean wave crashing on “1,000 Seconds.”
While Ten Silver Drops can seem more intricate than it is explosive at times, the Secret Machines have a good sense of how not to let the gas run low on their songs. With an album that is much icier than it’s predecessor, Ten Silver Drops will cause the listener to see his own breath while listening. Secret Machines have definitely gotten their frigid on.