Review Summary: This record is amazing, like nothing eles out there. It sounds like it was recorded in the basment of a criminal mastermind.
Over one year in the making, Plays is Secret Mommy's crowning achievement. Although written in a vernacular native to Secret Mommy, a language of splintered electronic mischief and jarring digital edits, Plays is no doubt an outing from previous work. Unlike the rigid and regimented creative processes of previous work (Very Rec, 2005, created entirely from recordings of public recreational centres, or Hawaii 5.0, 2004, created from the sounds of tropical areas), Plays is looser in this area, focusing instead on achieving warmth and personality.
In January 2006, Andy Dixon, AKA Secret Mommy, booked time at The Hive, a studio owned and operated by his long-term friend and ex band mate, Jesse Gander. Dixon had decided that it was time to showcase his experience as a guitarist, songwriter, and lyricist, and take advantage of the fact that, due to this experience, his core group of friends consisted almost entirely of other musicians and writers. Dixon invited an assembly of fellow musicians (Juno award winning violinist, Jesse Zubot; Todd Macdonald, Tyr Jami, and Paul Patko of THE WINKS; Shane Krause and Ryan McCormick of THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY"; Sean Maxey, Berry Higginson, and Sarah Jane of THE DOERS, and many more) to record hours of material, sometimes expanding on riffs and motifs pre-written by Andy, but more often the group embraced the magic of improvised chance.
The one stipulation of the recording process was that no instrument was allowed to be electrified. No electricity would be used at all (except of course, to operate the recording gear). The idea was to create the most anti-electronic electronic album, free of any synthetic sounds (no electric guitar, let alone synths or drum machines), opting for an earthiness and soulful charm.
The result is just that. Plays swells with human warmth. Strings, brass, and woodwinds form a veil of lush and vivid melodies over top of Mr. Mommy’s brand of jolting and meticulous electronics. Since the composing stage was done primarily after the recording process, Plays has a jarring cut n’ paste feel to it, as if it where a remix album of phantom songs, composed and then scientifically dissected and rearranged into newer more exciting forms. Balancing the precise and disciplined characteristics are moments in which the velvet curtains of structure pull back to reveal the original free-improv recordings, illustrating the vast talent of all the musicians lucidly.