Saturday, November 8, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Mechanimal - Secret Science

It's generally pretty easy to discover specialized record labels that consistently release good music yet restrict themselves to a specific genre, likewise those that put out a wide variety of material while being lax when it comes to quality control, but it's rarer to encounter one that's both eclectic and reliable, which makes independent Greek imprint Inner Ear Records well worth checking out. Covering everything from folk to electronic, the music they issue is usually as intriguing as it is adventurous, and Secret Science, the new sophomore album from Athens-based trio Mechanimal, is a nice addition to that expansive catalog.

Formed by Greek musician/journalist Giannis Papaioannou and American photographer Freddie Faulkenberry, the band members themselves describe their music as "drone 'n' roll", although that's an incomplete (and oddly inaccurate) description of the sounds found on Secret Science, the follow up to their 2012 self-titled debut. In fact, the album bounces between a number of styles, be it the upbeat synthpop of "We Come Alive", the subtly dubby, trip hop feel of "Cut Communications" or the dark, throbbing techno found on the record's muscular closer "Down in the Basement", all of which come with a tasteful amount of Joy Division worship.

Those influences, as well as Secret Science's forays into industrial and more conventional alt-rock, aren't exactly wildly divergent, but the deftness with which the appropriately, hilariously named Mechanimal navigates the transitions from one to the other makes even the occasional misstep, such as the title track, where the clenched-jaw vocals and some overwrought lyrics conspire to push the song into goth cliché, seem less pronounced, even on repeat listens. Altogether it's a cohesive set of songs, but offers its share of surprises, making it more than deserving of a few spins and yet another solid release from Inner Ear Records.

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