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sounds of secret records

The record label Fire Breathing Turtle produced a limited edition of 375 seven inch vinyl singles of the sounds of the Secret Records in 1997, here is a review.


What an utterly fascinating single. I played this late at night and without warning, suddenly noticed I'd stopped breathing for three minutes. What a remote and haunting sound. Imagine the world utterly quiet and still, because it's thousands of years after the end of the world. Imagine that all that's left of our so-called civilisation is fragments of trash, scraps of newspapers, amounting to a few shattered pieces of incoherent gibberish. A bleak view that, so let's try a more positive one. Imagine a time machine fetching back totally distorted and virtually unreadable images from the past, or from the future - lacking the skills to decode them, we are left with atomised information, that we must reconstruct as best we can.

Sonic archaeology. This is what you'll hear on this extremely unsettling little record. Yet there's no secret to the 'secret records' - the construction and execution of this sculpture / installation crossover work is made plain on the sleeve notes: 'Secret records are cast from found vinyl records in epoxy resin. Found objects are layered in the translucent epoxy as it sets. The resulting epoxy record has inverted grooves. Each secret record is unique in appearance and source mould. They are an unknown collaboration.' It's more than just a post-modern deconstruction of the record player. The key word here just might be 'translucent', because (unlike others I could name who make such a fetish out of rotating vinyl on a gramophone, in both the fields of avant-garde and mainstream entertainment music) the work of Mr Miller transcends the mechanics by which it's produced, immediately, totally and without question. It's a transparent process, plugging you instantly into the idea through sound. It's an innovation, not just a novelty. The listener is not merely interested, but astounded.

What are the foreign bodies pressed within these moulds? Regina Hackett wrote of 'mismatched buttons, wavy streams of human hair, cancelled tickets, strips of wallpaper, maps and butter wrappers. These thick, slightly warped circles are time capsules of memory, loss and desire.' She was writing about one of Miller's art installations at the Seattle Art Museum, connecting this work to John Cage and to a father of American absurdity, Robert Rauschenberg. The checklist of debris from the streets could have been made into a powerful collage by Kurt Schwitters, but already modern art is beyond that - passed into an unfeeling age where the preservation of transient garbage happens by accident, and means nothing. The epoxy resin of these Secret Records has become amber, preserving insects from another age. Listener-scientists, learn from this!



The Sound Projector Seventh Issue 2000, p. 55

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