It’s been far too long since we’ve heard from Secret Machines. After three excellent albums that blended haunting shoegaze, driving krautrock, and arena-ready anthemic bombast, the group quietly went its separate ways in 2010 without any formal announcement that it was taking a break. But throughout the previous decade, founding member Brandon Curtis was working on material that would eventually become Awake In The Brain Chamber, the group’s latest album and its first new music in ten years. That music begins seeing the light of day as of now, with the record’s first single, “Talos’ Corpse,” available to hear below, exclusively at The A.V. Club.
The first single finds the band employing its signature stately rhythms in service of a bright arrangement of synth and warm backing vocal patterns. “This song, for me, has the sonic vibe of Tubeway Army meeting up with John Bonham in a dark alley in the late ’70s, after seeing a Bowie concert in Paris,” says Machines’ drummer, Josh Garza. The refrain echoes an encouraging plea, alternating “I want to give, give up” with its immediate retort of “but don’t give, give up,” an inspired couplet from singer Brandon Curtis, whose distinctive baritone rasp has always anchored the group’s sound, here getting even lower in his register than usual during the verses. “I am hopeful,” he tells The A.V. Club about the song. “Ultimately, that is how I would like to describe the song. I think there are obvious influences, and we can quibble about this or that. But the vibe is hope.”
The upcoming record, composed and reworked obsessively over the past decade, bears all the classic influences of the band, including the input of Benjamin Curtis, Brandon’s brother and the band’s original guitarist, who passed away from cancer in 2013. Curtis and Garza both took pains to retain Benjamin’s influence on the final versions of the tracks, as a “sort of living tribute” to their beloved former bandmate. “I have been living with some of these songs for a long time,” Brandon says of the album. “They have witnessed a bunch of stuff that has happened in my life, the world, and so on. I feel like they are the better for it. To me the songs represent a time before, during, and after. I guess I am excited to watch these songs go out into the world and blend with other peoples’ lives. To let them be a part of some new stories.”
Ten years is a long time to work on a collection of songs, and Curtis acknowledges that he can be a bit of a perfectionist, yet also knows eventually it’s time to let go. “Ever since quarantine I’ve been cooking a lot, and I’ve found that I’m the kind of person who will play with a recipe forever. You know, sometimes things are done when the dish tastes right, and sometimes it’s just time to eat.” Listeners can feast on the sounds of Awake In The Brain Chamber when it’s released on August 21. The record is available for pre-order now.