We thought we were doing a good job keeping tabs on Eddie Ruscha’s Secret Circuit. Well, we dropped the ball because he released a full LP–Tropical Psychedlics–with London’s Emotional Response in August of last year. We didn’t realize this until the album was Pitchfork’d last Friday, which meant we needed to hustle to get our hands on the album. How is it? It is a step back from Eddie’s usually thick, thick, thick abstract house and is instead a slightly more approachable version of his electronic point of view placed in an island context.
The album consists of twelve songs from Ruscha that are collected from cassette-only releases he has put out between 1996 and 2010. The album’s dozen tracks certainly reveal Ruscha’s obsession with tropical sounds mashed together with an electronic, psychedelic slant: the release lives up to its name. The collection is a departure from fuller recent releases like “Nebula Sphynx” and Jungle Dogs / Jungle Bones, both of which tip the scales time wise toward the ten minute mark. Tropical Psychedlics sees no song going too far over the five minute mark and many of them hint at lengthier incarnations (a lot would seem better suited for this, too). This is likely because of the nature of cassette-only releases.
The album leans heavily to the tropics. With its title, this should not be a surprise but it really was given how it manifests itself by channeling Don Ho and other island delights throughout the course of the record. Songs like “Moon Life” with its dainty island guitars (that sound like a sped up Studio song) and “Walkin’ On Water” with its pronounced vocals and reimagining Christ as an island traveller make the marriage between Ruscha’s aesthetic and island pretty well. “Lagoland” is potentially the best island outing with its metallic drumming and build-up. The effect of the tropics do wear off since all these songs are too quick to sunbath in.
Tropical Psychedlics excels when it forgets about its theme. “White Wish” opens up the album and feels like you are swimming in a pool of disco lights thanks to the bloops and harpy bass. “Afrobiotics” is a classic Ruscha song with the drums and robotics and the feel that natives are doing a party ritual around you as you skim down the Amazon River sipping on a cocktail. The songs all make you want more to them: “Winded Up On The Floor” uses twinkling rubber band synths that build a friendly tune and “Foggy Twilights” lives up to its dreaminess with its repeating chord trio base–but both putter out early. “Roll” is the strongest track on the release as it is complex conga with layering echoes that rise and rise and rise like tidal wave.
This group of tracks is Ruscha at his least dense and most accessible since these songs are not as complex and invite you in out of curiosity. The brevity and island sound contributes to its friendliness–but everything could be carried on or indulged in a little more. Regardless, the funny thing about this release is that you see Secret Circuit’s voice clearest here: the sound of these songs feel like they were dip-dyed, where the same sound in a song goes in and out of intensity because they were soaked for different amounts of time. Because this collection of years of work clarifies who Secret Circuit is, it is a good listen–perhaps just not our brand of island jams, though.