Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Secret is out tonight!

It's a near impossible feat. To run a big band in NYC is a masochistic endeavor of the highest order. Darcy James Argue himself has said, "if it was remotely possible for me to do something other with my life than lead an 18-piece bigband, I’d do that. In a heartbeat." Yet Darcy, the composer and bandleader of his group Secret Society, has done just that, and quite successfully for the past four years. While many may consider a successful non-institute supported big band a near impossible conquest (just ask my dad!), to create a non-live performance CD of said group is unanimously considered a frustrating practice in futility.

Unless, of course, you are Darcy James Argue and have figured out how to perform alchemy with coffee beans.

I actually wouldn't be surprised if that was Darcy's secret to success. He does emit an air of old-world mystery, like a cohort of Sherlock Holmes or a member of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, of which Darcy openly admits drawing influence and inspiration from.

If Darcy's superhero's cape hides an alter-ego of Musician Alchemist, his daytime face is one of a coffee drinking Brooklynite ready to discuss politics, indie bands, comic books, or the state of music today. He does as much on his blog, or web pamphlet as he calls it, by the same name of his band, Secret Society. There you can find yourself intellectually challenged while being kept up to date on the happenings of his music, the real treat of all this hype. It is also there that Darcy performs his alchemy, turning his coffee-inspired words into financial donations to support the performance and recording of his music. Without his online fund raising campaign, there is no way Darcy would have been able to record this album. You can read more about that incredible effort here.

Tonight marks the release of Secret Society's debut album, Infernal Machines. Darcy's been giving away his music for free on his blog for years in the form of live recordings, and while hearing music live is usually the most powerful way to experience music, especially when there is improvisation occurring, to hear a large ensemble properly recorded has its own magic. With the ability to bring forward the smaller nuances of the music that are not always heard in venues with lacking acoustics, a shy but charming side of the music can be heard. This is definitely the case with Infernal Machines.

While I don't mean for this to be an album review (I feel way too biased in my enjoyment of the music to offer an objective critique) I will share my opinion in that my enjoyment of the CD is two-fold. Two-fold in that I can experience the music two ways- the way I listen to jazz music, and the way I listen to pop/rock (for lack of a better term). I definitely experience various musical genres differently. I listen for different things. When listening to jazz (to speak broadly) I usually listen for the tones of the instruments, the blending, the balance, the melodies and supporting counterpoints, the harmonies, the solos, and most important to me, the overall groove, be it swing, latin, straight eighths, or a ballad. With pop I focus on the overall aesthetic. How it makes me feel is of more importance than digesting what is often (though not always) a more simplistic structure. With Infernal Machines, especially the first three tracks, I can listen a jazz nerd, or casually and enjoy it either way. I think there's something incredible when music can appeal to both the student of the music and still be accessible to the casual listener; I know that is what I strive for in my music. And I think it's something that Darcy accomplishes incredibly well with his music.

Speaking of album reviews, there is a TON of press out there right now surrounding today's CD release (available through it's label New Amsterdam Records on May 12). To link to a few...

"Sounds Heard: Darcy Jame's Argue's Secret Society Presents Infernal Machines" by Trevor Hunter, New Music Box
"The Making of Darcy Jame's Argue's 'Infernal Machines'" by Eric Benson, All About Jazz
"A Speakeasy of the Mind" by Goerge Grella, The Big City
"Darcy James Argue's Metal Machine Music" by Richard Gehr, The Village Voice
"Infernal Machines" by Troy Collins, All About Jazz
"Jazz Standards that Aren't" by Seth Colter Walls, Newsweek

As always, check out more on his blog, Secret Society.

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society releases its debut CD Infernal Machines TONIGHT at Galapagos Art Space, 10 PM, $10.

1 comment:

Mike said...

i recently discovered his band and i love it... and i do think one listens to diff music with diff ears - i think mick goodrick said its up to listener to find the good in the music