The Home Secretary: The White Hour | Soft Gamma Repeater | The Heliopause | The Maunder Minimum
EP, 2008, streamed at https://myspace.com/thehomesecretary
This is the third set of The Home Secretary’s tunes to come my way. In 2006, he announced his presence online with a selection culled from his first two CDs. Although these early tracks have since been deleted from his website, it is worth presenting a brief reminder of the disorientating sound-world they introduced.
Synth arc-lights induced the fear of patrolling private security firms in the abattoir ghost-drone of ‘Lyman Ultra’. He produced the trompe l’oreille of some very sharp ensemble playing in ‘The Meridian’ and conjured a still and lovely pastoral interlude in ‘The Conduction Band’. In ‘The F Region’, he combined the Natural Elements, using drumnbass hi-hat and malfunctioning toy car rhythm, hymning a mer-ghost and a Megacity rooftop garden. Elsewhere, ‘Spoliation, Part One’ was a track of purgatory jazz seemingly compiled from field recordings of a mutant band incorporating electric bean bag percussion, a choir of broken-mouthed IBM machines, a mutilated, out-of-work marching band with robot strings assembled tentatively around a poisoned well in Foreign Keyboard City, processed like turkey slices pressed into the shape of a bear.
In this delirium-state we come to The Home Secretary’s most recent music. The restlessness of ‘The White Hour’ characterises the EP: harmonising trumpet and clarinet sounds alternate with a walking bass which eventually takes over, and will not stop walking. The struggle in ‘The White Hour’ symbolises the vacillation across the disc between the fuck-you yacht-jazz of ‘The Maunder Minimum’ and the subterranean apocalypse-nostalgia of the two central tracks. Closing the EP, ‘The Maunder Minimum’ presents the engine room: the below stairs look at the carnage described by the centrepieces. It deploys that typical Home Secretary topos, the becalming interlude, to evoke devastating ruin. Here the interlude conjures an ominous engine hum with the Sirens practising their guitar on a distant island; this cuts in and out amid some crackling interference, their tantalising transmission lost as the track fades. We sail on, not even tied to our mast.
This follows ‘The Heliopause’ and its brutal call-and-response: a processed guitar call, and heavy banging nautical spirits thumping their response through The Fog. The resounding guitar line heralds your doom. In the interlude of this piece, the ship appears to be talking: here is the indifferent captain, calmly offering us the overview, read from the Iranian twitterfeed on his iPad, but we can still hear the chaos and carnage in the distance. Any maritime theme to the EP is surely unintentional. The highlight is ‘Soft Gamma Repeater’, which cracks open the mind of the CCTV. 1960s North East meets 1980s North West seen through a filter of corrupted MPEGs. Audibly, the camera drops through the earth: concrete and gravel cascade through a post-apocalyptic space-dub version the tune’s opening section. ‘A piano plays in an empty room’, someone once sang under one-colour-tinted record sleeves. But this time the piano is played by Delia Derbyshire, magnetic tape trapped under the felted hammers. And here is The Home Secretary, with his supernatural disregard for private moments, recording this spectral melody – no notes redacted – for your ears and mine to share.