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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
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+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
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+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
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+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
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+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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Secret Machines
Now Here Is Nowhere

"The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime makes the ridiculous, and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again." — Thomas Paine

This is big. From the opening crunch of Josh Garza's drums the impression is one of monolithic vastness. Secret Machines, three Texans transplanted to New York, rocket into the stratosphere with an unashamedly huge sound, a reverberating blast-off. While Radiohead's Hail to the Thief sounded like the culmination of a steady withdrawal from the epic into a series of non-concentric micro-worlds, this is music as a macrocosm, a universe of sound focused and streamlined into a heady rush of sensation.

The Curtis brothers, Benjamin and Brandon, make up the remainder of this trio — Benjamin's guitar playing is a psychedelic pulse punctuated by triumphal riffs, with echoes of early Mercury Rev, and Brandon's vocals are a more grounded variant on Wayne Coyne's otherworldly whine. But where the Flaming Lips of Clouds Taste Metallic teetered on a sort of internal collapse, and the Mercury Rev of Boces sounded almost accidentally epic, Secret Machines sound somehow inevitable. The right buttons are pushed throughout and the music accelerates and cruises along a clear flight-path. There's little by way of tension, or unexpected diversion. The trajectory seems mapped out clearly in advance; it's a chartered trip rather than a voyage into the unknown.

And yet it gets you in the end. It hammers away noisily with an insistency that is ultimately irresistible. It's big but it's also clever. Behind this conflation of volume and bluster there's an instinctive dynamism. From a launch pad that's part John Bonham, part Bowie's "V-2 Schneider," "First Wave Intact" tells us almost immediately everything we need to know about this band in a classic statement of intent. "Sad and Lonely" follows, swamping its lyrical compassion in monumental instrumentation. Lyrically, in fact, the band wavers between the elliptical and the obtuse, with a persistent undercurrent of melancholia in apparent opposition to the music's grand designs. This contradiction is, however, overcome by sheer momentum — the chorus to "The Road Leads to Where It's Led" is "They're blowing all the other kids away," but it's sung like a triumphant hymn. There's a brief sub-Floydian reverie in "The Leaves Are Gone" and some vaguely Prog atmospherics at the start of “Pharoah's Daughter” but it's the epic, space-rock histrionics which dominate.

As the title track's thundering, kosmiche groove — an unlikely but winning combination of Neu! and Led Zeppelin — ends this album, you may experience a strange sense of admiration for this predictably overblown, infectious music, and a nagging urge to hear it again.

by Tom Ridge

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