Review of 'The Secret Garden' album
Kage Alan reviews 'The Secret Garden'
by Kage Alan,
The Sun Peeks Out From Behind The Clouds in The Secret Garden
Some friends recently visited and the subject of music came up as it does. We all embrace the medium when it comes to picking certain artists to listen to when we write (which is our medium). I was asked to describe Alien Skin and it took me a bit to get it right since--and this is a good thing--there's no simplistic way to do so and no shallow pigeonhole to label it with.
My first instinct was "Electronic." However, I used to think of early Ministry and Skinny Puppy as Electronic and, let's face it, that music scared the bejesus out of me. Alien Skin is something much more. It's a mood. It's a feeling. It's nature. It's organic. It's a glimpse inside the drizzle and fog. It's the Blade Runner or The Crow of the music world. That's ultimately how I'd describe it. And album titles like Don't Open Till Doomsday, The Unquiet Grave and Ghost in the Rain might help support this description.
However, even The Crow featured a song with the title and lyric "it can't rain all the time" and that brings us to The Secret Garden.
It's evident even before starting the first track that this album is going to be a bit lighter. How so? A quick look at the back cover of the album reveals track titles like On a Fine Day, Airports, Blue and Sunny Day. Now I say this in jest, but if singer/songwriter George Pappas was going to touch on the moodier side of things throughout, those songs may have been titled On a Fine Day You Disappeared With No Trace, Airports With No Planes, Blue When You Drown and Sunny Day Never To Be Seen Again. It's with this album that Alien Skin lets the sun peek out from behind the clouds even if for just a moment.
The music here is still electronic in that future Blade Runner noir way, moody, organic and everything I mentioned before, but it's also...lighter somehow. It's uplifting and not falsely so. It's another side of the artist he feels like sharing and it's a lovely one at that. The Secret Garden, the first track as well as the album title, is a lush piece that invites us along for the journey that is this album. Save Me is also a standout track and features a driving beat with an ethereal vocal plea.
Crushing Flowers offers a change of pace with a melody that has the feel of previous albums. Suffice to say that no two songs sound the same on this album, which remains a huge strength throughout all of the Alien Skin albums. On a Fine Day actually has a bit of a Jazz feel to it, Airports offers some bombastic background keyboards that in no way overpower the melody or vocals, Sunny Day is a bit psychedelic, Oh Mercy Moonlight has a contemporary touch, while End of the Season leaves us in a dreamy way, safe in the knowledge that this brief respite into warmer weather here in The Secret Garden will most likely change.
The album works. And it's best experienced as a whole since this is indeed a journey.
Alien Skin is a companion. You walk alongside this entity and marvel at the mysteries and shadowy places it points out to you and whispers about in your ear. On this particular day and with The Secret Garden, we just happened to catch him in a lighter mood.