Secret Knives: Snuff (A Low Hum/digital outlets)

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Secret Knives: Snuff (A Low Hum/digital outlets)
These 10 songs sitting at the midpoint of brittle electronica, indie guitar rock and experimental pop by Wellington's Secret Knives (Ash Smith) fairly spring attention from the opener Spinning Top which arrives over a drone and a vocal with an understated melody, then grows into vigorous drums, stuttering beats and voice before swelling guitars evoke a punchy horn section.

It's one of those can't-turn-away tracks which is the perfect way to announce an album.

And the five minute closer Franny – moody, expansive and almost pastoral prog-pop in its opening overs – bookends a collection which aims as wide as it does high.

Elsewhere there is aggro-pop on the deceptively titled Simple Bliss, Sparks-like Eighties dancefloor-directed electro-pop (No Psalms), sublimely aching vocals on the mini-epic Excess which takes off into dense grandeur from where a jangly U2 ballad might leave off, samples of cello and trumpet, Eno-like shuffles of material (Cruel Optimism and Flush share very similar DNA) . . .

Coming nine years after the Secret Knives debut Affection – which was elevating but lighter – this seems like a belated leap forward.

However what was sound about Affection remains intact here, but now comes with extra texture and an emotional edge.

You can hear Snuff at bandcamp here where you can also buy a download of the album and a bonus seven track EP of ambient instrumentals by Secret Knives. It is also available on cassette tape with the full selection of downloads.

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