BROOKLYN, NY—New York City’s Secret Machines have toured regularly since the release of their first full-length album, Now Here Is Nowhere, in 2004. The trio, with their brand of Placebo-meets-Pink Floyd alternative psychedelia, has been known for their extensive stage set-ups—which during their set at The Music Hall Of Williamsburg in Brooklyn last month, included an aggressive barrage of lights, as well as what appeared to be a series of liners, tacked from across the top and running to the bottom of the stage, all giving the appearance that the band was performing in a web. A thematic approach has been the Machines calling card all along—whether it is as the opener in support of Bloc Party, or the massive expanse of Bonnaroo. However still, The Secret Machines have remained just what their name suggests: A secret, known largely in part by the New York music community in which the members themselves are quite active.
Secret or not, The Secret Machines went to task during their set in Williamsburg. Somewhat surprisingly, the band focused more on their previous efforts: The afore-mentioned Now Here Is Nowhere, and 2006’s Ten Silver Drops. Tracks from their latest release, Secret Machines, were few and far between, with the rousing pop of the leadoff track, “Atomic Heels,” making its way into the set, as well as the lurking gloom that is “The Walls Are Starting To Crack.” During the latter, the band seemed to really gather steam. Drummer Josh Garza is a percussive powerhouse —assaulting his kit like it committed a crime—and new guitarist Phil Karnats seems to have found his niche within the band after replacing original guitarist Benjamin Curtis last year.
Singer Brandon Curtis pulled double-duty on bass and keyboards as he had in the past, but his vocals during the set were delivered with more pronounced assertion, as opposed to the gentle phrasing and nasal twang sometimes heard on The Secret Machines’ records. This might be due in part to the differences in approach that are notable between their records and their live show. On record, the studio often serves as a fourth Machine— creating landscapes of sound that compliments the material. But live, The Secret Machines shed their ethereal layers and take on the roll of a power trio, thanks in no small part to Garza’s raw power. These are the differences, however, which make or break a performance from The Secret Machines. The set was slow to build, and while the performances were executed fine enough, the set was over just as the band seemed to really get cooking. Closing with their signature finale, “First Wave Intact,” the band blew the doors off of the venue, ironically in time for everyone to head home—leaving for wonder the possibilities of what The Secret Machines could pull off with an additional 45 minutes added to their set.
Brooklyn hip-cats Dragons Of Zynth were also on the bill.