Secret Shine: There is Only Now (Saint Marie Records, 2017)

Secret Shine: There is Only Now (Saint Marie Records, 2017)

by Jason

Secret Shine was formed in winter of 1990. Their first single, under the moniker Amelia’s Dream, came out in 1991 and was entitled “After Years”. Shortly after, the band adopted the name Secret Shine and they become one among the founders of dream pop and shoegaze out of Britain in the early 90’s. Untouched was their first full-length LP released in 1993 and re-released by Saint Marie Records in 2015. After a long hiatus, the band reformed in 2006. In 2010, the band released The Beginning of the End with a subsequent 7” being released in 2014. Seven years after their last full-length, Secret Shine is back on the scene with There is Only Now, due out on March 17, 2017 from Saint Marie Records. The current line-up includes Dean Purnell (vocals and guitar), Scott Purnell (guitar), Kathryn Smith (vocals and keys), Jamie Gingell (bass), and Tom Adams (drums). There is Only Now boasts their signature shoegaze sound laden with dreampop blissfulness and pop structure brilliance.

There is Only Now begins with “Burning Stars”, a slow to mid-tempo track that is covered in luminescent synths, dreamy guitar drones, and perfectly placed percussion and bass lines. Secret Shine slips in and out of slowgaze moments with reverb drenched vocals filled with Smith and Purnell harmonies reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. “All in Your Head” begins as an almost silent track and then the volume slowly rises and the band explodes into a blissed-out wall of sound. Once Smith begins singing, the wall of sound drops, shimmering guitars dot the soundscape, and drums and bass fill the void. The guitar tones on this track are just amazing, soaring and twisting into dense movements, enhancing the feeling of the vocals. The synths play a major part in creating an otherworldly floor for the guitars to float over. They shimmer and create playful melodies. If this were the only track released from this album, it would receive lavish praise.

“Dirty Game” has the guitar in a steady rhythm, growling from the speakers. Bright synth tones play a sparse melody that counters the vocal melody. The way this track is mixed is just brilliant. The synth plays in the left ear while another guitar part plays in the right. There is a depth here that just makes the listener feel surrounding by the band’s sound. There is an underlying grit to this track, with dollops of angst betrayed by the breathy, lilting vocals. “Drift Away” is a nostalgia trip, channeling the likes of The Cure with its dancing synths and grainy guitar fuzz. It swings back and forth, displaying Secret Shine’s skill in writing catchy, infectious pop frameworks in which to house their sweeping dreampop and dense shoegaze walls. This is the fourth track into There is Only Now and, by this time, the listener begins to realize that they are hearing something quite special.

“To the Well” begins with an ominous bass line and fuzzy, foreboding synths. Adams’ drum work glues the affair together. Smith and Purnell sing a beautiful, ominous melody in the spaces between the louder and quieter parts of the song. This is a cinematic song, evoking deeply disturbing films in the horror or suspense genres. There is an urgency to the faster and heavier parts of the song, with an incredible sense of warning. And here’s the thing. Secret Shine communicates all these ideas so brilliantly and in what feels like an effortless way. “For You” moves the band back into the more ethereal sounds of shoegaze, with denser walls of sound and weeping guitars. Gingell holds a tight bass-line with Adams utilizing percussion accents to great effect. The vocals slip into a Slowdive-esque vibe while synths add depth to the wall of sound.

“Snowglobe” is a swinging dreampop track that rocks the listener with ease. The shimmer track lulls the listener into a trance with dreamy vocals and ghostly guitar walls. There is wonderful glimmering accent that twitters deep in the mix, adding to the textures and tones in the walls of sound. “Falling Again” is metronomic in its melody as it is picked under fuzzy edged layers. This is another perfectly framed pop structure, demonstrating that Secret Shine aren’t hiding behind effects in terms of their abilities to construct addictive song stylings.

The last two tracks on There is Only Now don’t let up on the quality. These aren’t tracks buried at the end to keep them from being heard more often. “Things I Said” has an active high hat as a primary percussion accent with slow, drawn out guitar and synth notes. This contrasts with the shorter, more up front vocal melodies. The finale to the album is “Make Me You”, which begins with trilling guitar over layers of synths and walls of sound. The bass acts as a floor for the melody while the percussion moves the song forward at a steady pace. It’s a wonderfully constructed pop song as a finale to this brilliant album.

For fans, it’s always difficult to find new material from a band you grew up listening to and think it better or that it has surpassed the band’s early offerings. Nostalgia is a power thing, especially when it comes to music. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that There is Only Now is the best thing Secret Shine has released to date. From start to finish, this album explodes in slow-moving pop brilliance with all the shoegaze and dreampop accents anyone could ever want. There is Only Now is a must own for any shoegaze fan or, in fact, lover of music in general.

Pre-order at Saint Marie Records’ Page.

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