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Secret Life of Machines - EP

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Album Review

The first Doldrums release pretty well set the mood for the following albums, and a fine mood it is. Given that VHF label head Bill Kellum is part of the trio, it's no immediate surprise that the music embraces the principles of long, exploratory drones and gently haunting guitar wash and playing. Unlike a lot of run-of-the-mill music tagged and burdened with the label post-rock, though, Doldrums have both a sly sense of humor (mostly apparent in the song titles) and a knack for making truly interesting compositions and performances. Starting with "Weird Orbits," which fades softly into listening range with a soft hum and sudden, cutting guitar snarl heavily treated with echo and effects, Secret Life if anything calls to mind prime early Ash Ra Tempel, with its same sense of meditative, vast space and commitment to sonic exploration. Elements of dub production (shuffling, treated drums) and the varying strains of dark English psychedelia from the '60s to the '90s (the Cure, shoegazing, and more) all also play a role, but Doldrums can't be identified as following any particular sound but its own. The first half of the album is the more gently relaxed, and quite great it is. The hints of flutes and strings on "Colossal Scissors" might just be processed guitar, but the feel is wonderful regardless, as cavernous, increasing-in-volume feedback plays around the mix and gently differing rhythms set the pace. The second half is more active and downright menacing, as the guitars cut through a little more crisply and the steady pulse kicks out entirely for varying rolls and fills, often not on standard drums. There's even a lawnmower that makes up the first section of the wiggily chaotic "Prog Epilogue," and why not? Special credit should be given to the title of the epic final song — "HTMLosers."

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Falling together in 1994 as a loose conglomeration, Doldrums quickly honed a bracing twin-guitar attack, as played by Justin Chearno (ex Pitchblende) and former Rake bassist Bill Kellum, with Bill's brother Matt Kellum (who also plays with Chomsky and the Death Ray Davies) on drums. Taking off from the launching pad of Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia, Doldrums debuted with the "XA" 7" and quickly began refining a style that combined blissful and twisting guitar journeys with the nuts and volts of cerebral...
Full bio
Secret Life of Machines - EP, Doldrums
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