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Secret Mommy - Mammal Class

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Artist: Secret Mommy

Album: Mammal Class

Label: Orthlorng Musork

Review date: Jun. 22, 2004

Secret Mommy’s sophomore release, the suspicious capsule that is Mammal Class, is a superstructure built from a daring array of contemporary ligaments: matching the technicalities of Don Caballero and The Books, two groups which should be talked about more often in the same sentence; the post-whatever time changes are strengthened by the perspicacity of punk and the source material of techno.

The man behind the mind is Andy Dixon, a skilled guitarist who bends wire for Vancouver’s hardest-core socialites, The Red Light Sting. With The Red Light Sting, Dixon leads a five piece rock band through nonlinear shards of art-punk scream-alongs. As it turns out, Dixon only gives a coy peek into the possibility of his structural tenacity with his punk rock band. By comparison, Secret Mommy sounds like finding gods at a seriously hallucinogenic weekend retreat: confusing and holy.

Dixon nimbly practices the musical opposite of containment, coaxing the compressed commodity of the pop song into expansion and fissure. Eschewing comfortable sounds (like guitar and bass), Dixon literally blenders cornfed popstars into mash, grafting sputtering reimaginations of Britney, Justin, Pink and Andrew (W.K.) over Zach Hill-istic drum samples. In plain English, he takes a phrase like “Let’s get a party started,” from the track “Andrew W. Cake,” and toggles the sample, over-compressing and over-overdriving it until is sort of pops in and out of the song.

Many of the tracks are further confused by odd outlier-speckled arrays of emotional moods within the span of their two to four minutes, something that I think The Books are very good at manipulating. “Andrew W. Cake” does this, before the anthem refrain: most of the track sounds like the sad theme song to the lonely birthday of a japanimated orphan preschooler, whose evil schoolmaster is a mean and scary robot that’s actually just ashamed of its garish half-melted face, but doesn’t know how to express its feelings constructively. (All these songs are very visceral.)

“An Apple A Day Keeps The Mac Voice Away” finds melancholy in a flourishing tide pool utopia of Ritalin-inspired techno layers. This track justifies the Don Cab finger point, as Dixon layers rhythms and melodies like Ian Williams' guitar sampling from the best moments of American Don. Math rock and IDM decide to lounge at the same hearth, and it works.

Somehow, Mammal Class feels more coherent than much of Kid606 and his Tigerbeat 6 gofers output. I don’t mean that as condescendingly as it reads; I’ve enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) many a Tigerbeat artist. But Secret Mommy feels bigger and broader, simply covering more ground in less space. The best moments are more bounteous and more exciting. It’s stunning.

By A.A. Davidson

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