Record Review - 1 July 15 2004

Ever wonder what A Tribe Called Quest meant when it dropped the term “the low end theory”? As interpreted by Brooklyn-by-way-of-Dallas trio Secret Machines, it states: “If you boom it, they will come.” And that theory — backed by a furious touring schedule plus overwhelmingly positive press — could put the group just above an underground phenomenon by 2004’s end.

Gurgling from the bottom up, Secret Machines’ second release, and major label debut, Now Here is Nowhere, proves that the threesome may play in the big leagues, but doesn’t wear the uniform. How else can one explain opening with a nine-minute psychedelic freak-out headlined by rumbling bass drum couplets?

Eschewing the Spinal Tap formula and placing drummer Josh Garza upfront, Secret Machines’ furious beatkeeper produces a sound that echoes John Bonham. Elsewhere, Garza lies low, allowing his bandmates — brothers Brandon (guitar, keyboard) and Benjamin (bass, vocals) Curtis — a chance to show their wares. On the alternately pleasant and haunting atmospheric track “The Leaves Are Gone,” Brandon sets the mood with gentle guitar picking and quivering organ washes, while Benjamin walks his fingers along a swaying bassline.

Above all, it’s the taut construction of the trio’s songs that are its hallmark. It probably comes from living together for over two years in a studio apartment that doubled as its practice space. “What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger” is another adage proven true.

Secret Machines play the Echo Lounge Sat., July 17. 9 p.m. $8.