It’s hard to believe it’s been just shy of 5 years since Secretary released their masterful debut EP. Continuing from Ellison Wolf’s previous incarnation as Summer at Shatter Creek, the new project showcased a deeply moving collaboration with Em Malich. With motive vocals and soundscapes that mesmerize – Parallels is perfection.
Since we last heard from Secretary, the band moved on from Seattle, spent some time in North Carolina, and returned to the Pacific Northwest. The return to the Emerald City coincided with the release of their debut album, Parallels. Let me be the first to say it: the wait has been worth it.
Translating to a Live Show
The band launched a Kickstarter to fund the production costs and it ultimately proved successful. To celebrate, an album release show was announced at the High Dive in Seattle. Fortunately, I was able to scoop up a ticket and take it all in.
The band is now down to the core duo of Wolf and Malich – a change from when I last saw them. From the opening notes I knew I was in for a special performance. I was amazed at how the duo moved from instrument to instrument with ease, filling the room with melody and white noise in equal measure. The most impressive moment for me was at the tail end of new song Waves – as Wolf sang, Malich moved from her keyboards to the electronic drum kit, jumping into the mix at the tail end, creating a wave of white noise. This was my second show of 2018 and an amazing night. Fortunately, the album maintains the quality of the live show.
The album is full of highlights – a nice problem to have. When You Know, You Know opens with Wolf singing unaccompanied. Music enters the mix layer by layer. One thing to note is the return of the band has heralded an increasingly electronic sound; think a darker version of The Postal Service. Waves opens with a plea “tell it like you see it,” and builds from an acoustic guitar sing-a-long to the washes of dissonance that I experienced at the show. Retroacting features guitar work that wouldn’t sound out of place on Radiohead’s The Bends along with layered, haunting vocals.
I Know It’s Wrong is recut from that masterful debut EP. I was worried because this was my favorite song on that release. I needn’t have worried – this new version retains the darkness of the original and tampers down the vocal histrionics. I love both versions. “I know it’s wrong / to play the game”, the last words of the song become hauntingly lost in special f/x. Perfection.
The album ends with a 1-2 punch. Fires begins as an acoustic lament before segueing into a Kraftwerk type electronic journey. Wisdom feels like a modern soul song, an after party down tempo lament. A perfect album closer.
The Pacific Northwest suits Secretary’s music perfect for listening to by the fire during the rainy season.
Album and Artist Info
You can pick up the album here. While the album is pay what you want, I’d recommend $10 for a BandCamp download. You can also follow the band on Facebook. The band next plays on Saturday, March 24th at the Lofi in Seattle.
Verdict: Masterful Debut
For Fans of: Radiohead, The Postal Service, The Chameleons, Bjork, Kraftwerk
- When You Know, You Know
- I Know It’s Wrong
- Too Far, Too Late