Secret Cinema: Minerals
Gem Records

Secret Cinema's Minerals basically fixes its gaze on two poles of the electronic music spectrum: ambient and techno. Conceptually speaking, the material on this premiere album release on Jeroen Verheij's own Gem Records label (established in December 2009) was inspired by the hardness, colour, and material of certain minerals, and it's not too difficult to draw a connection between such qualities and the rock-hard tracks Verheij's created for the collection. As someone who's been issuing tracks for two decades (he started producing in 1990 under the name Meng Syndicate and has also issued tracks under the Grooveyard and Point Blank aliases in addition to Secret Cinema), the Dutch producer is an old hand at this sort of thing, and it shows in the music's lazer-focused flow.

The first CD, Night on Earth, weaves twelve tracks into a continuous mix, making the disc unspool like a seventy-minute version of a high-octane DJ set of the kind one would hear presented at a fever-inducing pitch for three or four hours at a festival. Verheij adds a few guests along the way (Ramon Tapia, Egbert, Cosima, Moh) but their contributions don't push the Secret Cinema sound into any radically different directions as the material pretty much stays the peak-time course from beginning to end (a couple of ambient moments notwithstanding). Hinting at the tone and style of the second disc, “Intro - Exploration” eases the listener in with a brief episode of blissful calm before the dance-based journey gets underway with “Smooth Talc.” This initial sampling of the release's techno and tech-house style is representative of the album's first half: highly synthetic, trippy, polished, sleek, and relentless. The kick drum never strays from its 4/4 pulse, though a hint of house swing can be detected in the track's rhythmic drive. A nicely rumbling bass line effects a segue into “Crystal System,” an infectious slab of future-tribal techno, and a bit of that tribal character re-emerges during “Moh's Scale” too in its percussion-heavy attack. The intensity never lets up until the penultimate “Interlude – Passage” once again brings things down to the ambient level for six minutes of synthetic exhalations and swirls, followed by “Ruby FM,” which takes us out on an even more cosmic wave. Aside from such pieces, disc one's peppered with wind-ups and a relentlessly throbbing rumble of elastic bass lines and stabbing chords, plus occasional flirtations with minimal and trance.

The second disc, titled Moving Earth, brings Dirk-Jan Hanegraaff and Robert Kroos (aka Mental Youth) aboard to collaborate with Verheij on a fifty-two-minute ambient mix comprised of five long-form tracks. Apparently the material draws upon sounds from the first disc's tracks, though the ambient makeover is so thorough chances are any identification of said sounds will be well nigh impossible to even the most discerning listener, and unusual instruments (such as a tuning fork) were involved in the re-imagining too. The producers understandably exploit the elemental side of the minerals concept in their approach, with even titles such as “Separating,” “Colliding,” and “Forming” bringing the geological dimension of the material into sharp relief. Soft whistles, bell tones, and low-pitched swells emerge in settings that are at times so skeletal they seem no more than fragile wisps; “Mining,” for example, is located so far underground, its ghostly noises have almost disappeared by the time they reach the surface. Regardless, Moving Earth is a hard-core plunge into atmospheric ambient that's very much in the vein of Glacial Movements and other labels equally committed to ambient in its purest form.

June 2011