Secret Birds – Peace Forest (Bon Voyage)

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Now based in Tokyo, Brisbane-born D. Black has followed up Secret Birds’ full-band Asleep On The Dragon with this digital/cassette release, made on his own. His fondness for slo-mo psych remains, in all its distorting effects and endless layers, but here Black introduces drum loops that can nod to Suicide. In place of the scope achieved with collaborators, he turns to bleary explorations that move at a crawl and yet have a lot going on. Layers are ever slowing down, speeding up, and shifting.

The near-tribal percussion loops, cosmic synths, and effects-draped guitar of ‘Pink Nites’ maps out a sort of extra-dimensional terrain. Also around eight minutes long, ‘Laser Archipelago’ is like a murky psych raga, while ‘Mandala / Peace Forest’ indulges in delayed folk guitar in its first section and grows more rhythmic yet diffuse in its second. Everything comes to a head in the nearly 11-minute closer ‘January’s Child’, which establishes a quiet atmosphere before unleashing the prickly and frazzled guitar work that typically defines Secret Birds. Unlike the instrumental passages elsewhere, guest Jen Hiraki’s heavily treated and echoing vocals enter about halfway through, further distancing the track from conventional reality.

This is late-night, slow-burn stuff, best absorbed with a reserve of patience. But it’s worth it. Once again, Black has realised the power of setting his creations simmering rather than boiling.

Doug Wallen

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