Secret Knives - Affection
Affection is the debut LP by Ash Smith aka Secret Knives, whom you might remember from the interview we did with him early june (read here). Well, we could not end 2010 without reviewing his album which has been stuck on repeat for the past few months. Released October 2010, the album features 11 tracks all free that can be downloaded on his label's website Alowhum. 6 more songs which consist of 3 remixes and 3 original tracks, not to forget an exceptional photographic print can be obtained by only sending in a donation here.
When listening to the first track off the album i.e. "Black Hole", there's a feeling of diving into deep waters. This raises the anticipation since the song starts instrumental and only 2 minutes into it do the first lyrics emerge thus harmonizing the whole. "The Shining" is a song with many layers that makes it unique in it's structure and sound. It's a good example of Secret Knives' brilliant experimental pop exploration.
In "affection" and "Wicker Park" we finally hear Secret Knives' signature with his catchy hooks and distinctive voice. "Future wave" and "Good Grief" which are a bit more drone glide you into a state of peace and tranquility, you feel like going through tubes, surfing, gliding above waters, one wave at a time. "Good Fortune" is a sad, short song with a lot of potential, especially when it gets melodically raw.
One of the great things about Secret Knives' productions is the energy you find in his songs such as in "The Garden" and "The Shining". After listening to the tracks you find yourself wondering what just happened. You are carried away by the rhythm.
There is a pattern in some songs which you do not actually notice when first listening to the album. There seems to be no chorus at times such as in "The Northwest States". It is a well thought structure since even though the song may take more than 3 minutes you are not at all in any anticipation of the chorus. It's a bit strange because the instrumental parts seem to replace the chorus which is unique. Also songs such as "Elegy/Dreamdisco" and "The Church" often start at about 1 min into listening to them creating a dynimic mood that absorbs you. This could possibly be the reason why some songs don't have choruses because otherwise they would be much longer.
Compared to the debut EP The Wolves this album still keeps numerous elements such as his composition structures and style but there is unfortunately a less emphasis on the lyrics which seem to stay at the background at times. Affection is more instrumental and has a clear atmosphere which is very much appreciable. This album illustrates the potential there is in Ash Smith as he covers different genres from rock, shoegaze, electronic, pop to drone. Secret Knives is one of the best New Zealand act to follow and watch thrive.