Under Review

Secret Pyramid

Distant Works II

Self-Released; 04/05/2016

Sam Mohseni

Secret Pyramid has a minimalist approach to ambient music. Their minimalism is also progressive. The music sounds like a narrative that can be different based on the listener’s experience with the music. For that reason, Secret Pyramid’s Distant Works II is a unique ambient record that evolves with each listen according to different situations and times of the year. At only 31 minutes across seven cohesive tracks, Secret Pyramid creates music that is equally warm and eerie, a mix that not many recent ambient records have managed to achieve.

Other than three interludes consisting of field recordings from the Pacific Northwest, there are four full songs ranging from four to nine minutes. Secret Pyramid takes their time and carefully introduces the elements of each track, as if each element is a character with their role, until they all come together in the end to close the narrative and fade into the next song. For instance, in the record’s 8-minute centerpiece, “IV,” we first hear a distant, slow synth melody that gradually becomes more prominent. Then we notice the equally distant strings are gradually added to the synth melody while the original drone section from the end of the previous track still remains.

What further emphasizes Secret Pyramid’s music sound like a narrative, is their ability to create expectations for the listener. We keep guessing and anticipating the next element. Again, this can be noticed in “IV,” where the drone becomes more layered halfway through and we notice the sound of the synth and the strings becoming distorted, as opposed to their clean sound in the beginning. A similar sense of narrative can also be heard in “V,” a more subtle and haunting track, which begins with a recording of winds. This is seamlessly joined by a distant synth line that becomes prominent for few moments, while the field recording fades out as a distorted piano melody fades in and remains the only sound for moments. Then an equally distorted synth line appears that occasionally reflects the piano melody, as if it is creating a dialog, before fading out to another field-recording that leads to the next track.

This sense of narrative in each track is what makes Secret Pyramid’s music unique. Distant Works II is a cohesive album that only gets better and more valuable depending on where and when it’s listened to. It is haunting music that is equally warm as it is cold.