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Secret Shine - There Is Only Now (Saint Marie)

Secret Shine - There Is Only Now
8 May 2017

Seminal indie shoegaze/dream-pop band Secret Shine rose to heady sonic heights within the UK-based shoegaze scene of the early 1990s, but then drifted into the ether, never quite getting the chance to bask in the public spotlight like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride have done.

Based on the strength of Secret Shine’s back (and continuing) catalog, it’s an inexplicable mystery as to why the act hasn’t received more mainstream recognition. An indie pop core of catchy melodies, infectious vocal harmonies, and captivating atmosphere blazes like a beckoning beacon on Secret Shine’s songs, separating the band from the amorphous haze of many of its shoegaze-related peers and next generation formations.

In the early ‘90s, the Bristol, England-in-origin group joined the roster of renowned indie pop record label Sarah Records. In 1993, the band released its dreamily ethereal debut album Untouched (which was reissued by Saint Marie last year) and then followed that up with the glorious (and notoriously named) Greater Than God EP.

The band was put on indefinite hiatus in 1996, but was celebrated in 2004 with a Clairerecords -issued retrospective titled After Years. In 2005 drummer Tim Morris unexpectedly and tragically passed away, leaving Jamie Gingell (vocals, bass), Scott Purnell (guitar), Dean Purnell (vocals, guitar), and Kathryn Smith (vocals, keyboards) bereft, but also spurring them to reunite to record the album Morris in his memory. Secret Shine then returned with two LPs, 2008’s All Of The Stars and 2010’s The Beginning And The End, as well as two EPs and a 7” single.

In March of this year, Secret Shine reemerged even more sublime and revitalized than ever with There Is Only Now, a transfixing and transporting indie pop-based album that melds the dynamic, textured guitar drive of shoegaze and the heightened, diaphanous drift of dream-pop with a solid anchor of structured, melodic indie pop.

The original members, along with relative newcomer to the band, Tom Adams (drums), have crafted a vibrant batch of richly wistful, dreamily absorbing, tantalizingly catchy, and pleasurably measured to gushingly propulsive songs.

Each composition is a mélange of lush sonic rushes and plush lulls that diffuse effusively or languidly, like fragrance vaporized from an atomizer. Yet while the instrumental uplift and gently aerial vocals may create a blissful aura, they belie the bittersweet to bleak and questioning essence of the ruminative and insightful lyrics.

Grand album-opener “All In Your Head” bursts out with slow-motion, sky-bound drums ‘n’ cymbals fireworks that are underpinned by stately keyboard press and ethereal, tiered vocal harmonies from Gingell, D. Purnell, and Smith. As on almost all the songs, Gingell and D. Purnell’s vocals are multi-tracked to the max, creating a luxuriously airy vocal cushion.

A grimy guitar line grind contrasts with breathily radiant, blended vocals from Gingell/D. Purnell on the lyrically stark “Dirty Game”. As the words, “Dirty game / We play it anyway / You want to…” are drawn out with regret, they’re backed by softly angelic sighs from Kathryn and a spellbinding web of winding guitar lines.

A melancholic, post-punk undercurrent runs through the synth-pop clarity and crystal guitar chime of “Drift Away”. Ebullient synth notes and cymbals scintillation hold the song aloft, while Kathyn murmurs in a despondent, but dulcet register, shadowed by Gingell/D. Purnell, “You cannot bring us back / You cannot stop the track from running…”

The bass line-driven “To The Well” commences with a menacing and deliberate pace, infused with Gingell’s (lead vocals on verses) ominously hushed tone. It suddenly blasts off to the lowering clouds with shoegaze guitar frisson, glistening keyboard notes, a lively tempo, and Gingell/D. Purnell’s and Kathryn’s harmonic, twining vocals.

“For You” unveils a vast and majestic dreamscape expanse that is saturated with a panoramic introspection that rises to languorously resplendent heights. Penultimate album-ender “Things I Said” is a restless pop noir reverie filled with heartbreaking lyrics (Gingell/D. Purnell crestfallenly reflects, “So this is what we said we want / What have we become? / What have we done?”), gliding keyboard shine, propulsive percussion and drums, and sweetly stratospheric harmonies from Kathryn.

The spectacular There Is Only Now is the current crowning glory of Secret Shine’s musical legacy and leaves no question as to which band reigns over the dreamy, shoegaze-infused indie pop realm.

“For You” Big Takeover Premiere