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Secret Mommy - Very Rec

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Artist: Secret Mommy

Album: Very Rec

Label: Ache

Review date: Jan. 6, 2006

Vancouver producer Adam Dixon, a.k.a. Secret Mommy, spent over a year preparing his third full-length Secret Mommy. For six months, he recorded himself, his friends, and professional athletes performing various recreational activities; another six months were spent manipulating the samples into skittering glitch music. The result is more concept-driven than past Secret Mommy records, but Dixon is no newcomer to field recording – he composed his recent Hawaii 5.0 EP primarily from Caribbean sounds – and his experience shows in Very Rec’s unexpected aplomb.

Structurally, the album recalls Matmos’ A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure, on which the duo built songs entirely from the slices and squelches of surgical procedures. M. C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel’s precision aptly mirrored the complexity of their source material, and Dixon keeps it real in a similar fashion on Very Rec, stitching together playful pieces from his rec-field recordings.

On “Weight Room,” Dixon’s friend counts steadily to 50 while doing push-ups, while “Daycare” gets elementary as scissors slice crisply through construction paper. Dixon even coughs out an entertaining first attempt at the trombone on “Music Room.” The mic placement is pristine throughout, capturing the many hidden charms inherent in everyday exercises.

Of course, it’s not the mundane alone that makes Very Rec such an enjoyable listen; it’s what Dixon does with his jock rock. A zamboni morphs into a bass drum on “Ice Rink,” while the contact between a tennis ball and racket functions naturally as snare on “Tennis Court.” There is a palpable joy in detecting the tonal similarities between the sources and their destination; the re-contextualization allows one to notice the parallels in fundamentally dissimilar things.

Dixon, however, doesn’t let concept stand in the way of a good song. “Dance Studio” is the album’s most gorgeous piece, juxtaposing a simple acoustic guitar strum with jarring rhythmic shifts in a manner redolent of The Books, and adding brass samples along the way. The track’s playful buoyancy – and Dixon’s whimsy in general – channels Mouse on Mars, especially 2000’s Niun Niggung.

Despite Dixon’s nuance, he lacks a proper conception of space. Very Rec’s tracklist is tight, to be sure (only “Squash Court” is entirely dull), and the tracks average under four minutes, but there remains the feeling that it should be more compact. That gripe aside, Secret Mommy accomplishes something commendable here. The record, while certainly indebted to Matmos and Mouse on Mars, maximizes its concept; Dixon documents sound and gives life to it. Moreover, he never oversteps his source material with undue seriousness; Very Rec is about games, and despite its computerized precision, it never forgets to have fun.

By Kareem Estefan

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