Secret Frequency Crew

Forest of the Echo Downs

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Those familiar with the Schematic label, which is known primarily as an incubator for fairly harsh and confrontational music, will be surprised by the relatively gentle and accessible sound of Secret Frequency Crew, a DJ trio whose debut album manages to strike a nearly perfect balance between dark experimental elements and immediately attractive dance beats and dub-inflected textures. The album's opening track, with its gently percolating beat and subtly elegant rhythmic filigrees, sets the tone for the rest of the album, establishing a warm but complex downtempo mood. "Holographic Moon Owls" carries it further, with stuttery turntable scratching, Eno-esque chord washes and a chugging beat; the arrhythmic and aptly titled "Cumulus" sounds like an Orb track as it might be deconstructed by Christian Marclay; "Baron of the Bog" is an exercise in trip-hop trombone work with creepily distorted vocals. "Forest Floor" is some kind of wonderfully squidgy broken beat interlude that segues directly into a rhythmically stiff and yet strangely funky percussion-and-keys breakdown called "Faen." Whether you can dance to it or not is kind of an open question, but there's no question that Forest of the Echo Downs is quite a feast for the ears and the brain. Recommended.

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