Secret Colours’ Self-Titled

“. . . the Chicago-based Secret Colours’ self-titled album is, at its essence, a retro revitalization . . .” -GO

Guest Writer
Secret Colours

out of 10

July 21, 2010

Blazing a kaleidoscopic trail of psychedelic reverb and electronic distortion, the Chicago-based Secret Colours’ self-titled album is, at its essence, a retro revitalization, blending 60s influences with modern layering-effects for a multihued, hallucinogenic journey of sound. Laced with various timbres and tone-colors, the album’s sound-strata seem to seep through your speakers, surround you like Kodachromatic currents, wash over you in pied waves. They carry you off. And in such a way that—well, the word “trip” seems highly appropriate.

When I first listened to this album, I was sitting alone in a dark room (not as creepy as it sounds), my coffee piping in a mug at my fingertips, my felt-pen propped and ready. 49.35 minutes later, however, my page was still blank, my mug was still full (though significantly less piping), and the room was as dark as it had been when I first hit the “Play” button. Somehow, I had forgotten about everything. Reality had fallen away. The world had vanished. I was “lost on a one-way ride,” as the dreamy “Some Might Say” would say.

This experience, I feel, is an accurate representation of what Secret Colours’ album achieves as an artistic compilation. An amoebic mixture of electronic RnR and the drowning distortion of Shoegazing, the music in each track swirls around a longing and wistful voice, which ultimately is subsumed in the reverb. As a result, the human element in each song becomes lost within a drug-induced dream-whirl—drowning in emoted colors, rolling in swollen sound waves, so desperately close to breaking through to the surface, but never, never reaching the light.

The same is true for the listener.

As one listens to this album, one imagines traveling down a dark tunnel, a tunnel that never gets any longer or shorter, with a soft voice calling at the end—waiting, echoing, alone. In each track, the lyrics feel almost subliminal against the overwhelming musical layers. And like these drowned vocals, you too are meant to be lost, traveling toward an unknown end, merely for the sake of the ride.

The album opens with “Redemption,” a lively psychedelic amalgam that promises to carry your mind to “A secret place/ Then away to outer space.” This idea sets the tone for the entire album. The music is designed to drift you away, toss you around inside a drug-like tempest. In “Chemical Swirl,” in which the music forms a languid, depressing spiral (with such uplifting refrains as “Kill me gently”), we become lost in lyrics like “LSD, Ecstasy, DMT/ I’m free.” This, along with the superimposed layers of distorted guitars and echoed water droplets, creates a surreal sensation. The same is true for “Love,” in which dissonant, annular riffs swirl around lyrics like “I only dream of you/ So surreal,” presenting love as palpable emptiness. The cycling riffs keep us locked inside the dream, unable to connect to the outside.

In other words, throughout this album, the “real” is persistently being broken down and stripped away. Perhaps this is why, after floating through this psychedelic universe for so long, we leave the album with the chorus “Can’t feel what is real/ Your mind is too far.”

For Secret Colours, it is the emotional trip (acid or otherwise) that matters, not what’s actually said. And this trip is an individual one, taken alone, inward. (Even on their Myspace page, the band says that, regarding their music, “whatever you hear, you’re probably right.”)

Like with any trip, however, there are inevitable moments of boredom, times when your environment all starts to look (or in this case, sound) the same. The problem with trances is that, for the most part, they aren’t memorable. And this album had plenty of forgettable minutes. Each song begins to sound like every other after a while, and though it’s a great album for relaxing and reflecting (substance-free or –ful, regardless), it doesn’t really give anything back. Sure, it gives you a psychedelic sea to fall into, but victims rarely thank the water that drowns them.

Good sound. Good cohesion. Good riddance.

–Gino Orlandi, August 8, 2010