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WHAT IS SECRETLY SOCIETY?

Secretly Society is our spin on a classic idea - the record club. The pitch is simple. One record, in an exclusive, Secretly Society vinyl color, shipped to your door every month. Oh yeah, and shipping is included. find out more.

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Secretly Society members gain access to these limited-edition items... and many more.


 

Nov. 2018 Secretly Society Album

Sex and Food

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Label: Jagjaguwar

Nov 2018 Secretly Society release on black and white split color vinyl.

Where are we headed? What are we consuming, how is it affecting us, and why does everything feel so bad and weird sometimes? These are some of the questions posed on Ruban Nielson’s fourth album as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sex & Food—a delightfully shapeshifting album that filters these real-deal serious themes through a vibrant sonic lens that spans battered drum-machine funk, doomy and thrashing rock, and pink-hued psychedelic disco. Recorded in a variety of locales from Seoul and Hanoi to Reykjavik, Mexico City, and Auckland, Sex & Food is a practical musical travelogue, with local musicians from the countries that Nielson and his band visited pitching in throughout.

Over the last decade, Nielson’s established himself as one of the most inventive sonic traveler currently working, and Sex & Food is the most eclectic and expansive Unknown Mortal Orchestra release yet, from the light-footed R&B of “Hunnybee” to the stomping flange of “Major League Chemicals.” The adventurousness is all the more impressive considering that there’s a bit of DNA from the past UMO discography in Sex & Food: the soft-focus psych of the project’s 2011 debut LP, the lovely melancholia of 2013’s II, and the weirded-out funk of 2015’s virtuosic Multi-Love.

But rather than living in the past, Nielson is firmly in the here and now, drawing from personal unrest and generational malaise while surveying a variety of societal ailments. “If You’re Going to Break Yourself” and “Not in Love We’re Just High” chronicle the effects of drugs and addiction on personal relationships, while the lyrics “Ministry of Alienation” drip with modern-day paranoia like the silvery guitar tones that jewel the song’s structure: “My thinking is done by your machine/ Can’t escape the 20th century.” It’s a scary world out there, and it’s been that way for a while—and Sex & Food finds Nielson surveying the damage while attempting to reckon with the magnitude of it all.

Along with UMO bandmates and frequent collaborators Jacob Portrait and Kody Nielson, Ruban began work on Sex & Food in early 2016, initially intending to draw musical influence from post-punk luminaries of his youth—think Killing Joke or Public Image Limited’s singular Flowers of Romance. But as he toiled, Ruban began to realize the aesthetic limits of his aims. “Post-punk is so tasteful to my generation,” he states. “There’s no guilty pleasure to it—I just think it’s cool and good. When it comes to rock, I want to get into dodgier territory.”

So Ruban exited his comfort zone, literally: even though some of Sex & Food was recorded in his Portland, Oregon home studio (the same one that adorns Multi-Love’s cover), his desire to “get out of there,” as he puts it with a chuckle, led to a quest for creative inspiration that literally spanned the globe—from Reykjavik to Mexico City, as well as the Vietnamese city of Hanoi, where Ruban was inspired to draw influence from the imagery of the Vietnam-based films of his youth, as well as the powerful images conjured by Jimi Hendrix’s recording of “All Along the Watchtower.” “It was just like I hoped it would be,” he gushes about the city. “It’s really hard to record there—everything is so humid—but it was a really inspiring place, too.”

At one point in their travels, the recording process was interrupted while in Mexico City, as Ruban and bandmate Jacob Portrait were trapped in the city’s Chapultepec park following the devastating earthquake that hit Central Mexico this past year. “I was terrified,” he states about the experience, which cut off their access not only to the studio but to their lodgings. “I was so shaken up that I ended up getting a bunch of stuff done when I left,” Nielson explains on the effect that the experience had on Sex and Food’s creative genesis.

And his journey eventually led him to a curious but fruitful fount of inspiration: his past work. “At first, I thought that this was going to be a sad record, like II,” he explains when discussing how reflection helped push Sex & Food forward. “I was influenced enough by my own early stuff that I went into it thinking, ‘If I was a fan, how would I want to bring some of that back into what I’m doing?’” That old-becomes-new approach is more than apparent on the lush, beautifully understated “Huneybee,” reminiscent of II’s “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” and drawing lyrical inspiration from Ruban’s daughter whose middle name gave 'Hunnybee' its title.

“I was trying to figure out how to write a love song about my daughter,” he states. “She’s seven now, but the song will still be there when she’s a woman, so I was thinking about encoded fatherly instructions. I thought it was cool to say, ‘There’s no such thing sweeter than a sting.’ It makes her the protagonist—she can kill you! I thought that was good. The other line was ‘Don’t be such a modern stranger,” because I was thinking about what if the world is more atomized and isolated as she gets older?”

Indeed, the modern world—and all the thorny complications that come with living in it—loomed large on Ruban’s mind while making Sex & Food. But even though he’s not afraid to get topical throughout—as evidenced on the surprisingly boisterous “American Guilt” or the roomy-disco medication-meditation “Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays”—Ruban was also careful not to get too political, and for good reason. “Everything is so soaked in politics, and it’s kind of depressing for everything to be political right now,” he explains. “I wanted to keep it light. I think everyone’s feeling angry, and there’s nothing particularly interesting about my anger.”

A statement of selflessness, to be sure—but make no mistake: Sex & Food reaffirms the vitality of Ruban’s voice in today’s musical landscape, and when it comes to navigating the strange and often discouraging pathways our society’s taken, it makes for a damn fine compass, too.
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Dec. 2018 Secretly Society Album

soil

serpentwithfeet
Label: Secretly Canadian

Dec 2018 Secretly Society release on opaque blue.

serpentwithfeet is an avant-garde vocalist and performance artist whose growing body of work is rooted in dueling obsessions with the ephemeral and the everlasting – key components of his artistic journey from a childhood stint as a choirboy in Baltimore through his time at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he studied vocal performance before relocating to New York City. His forthcoming debut full-length album soil is a return to the sensibilities and wide-eyed curiosity of his musical youth before symmetry and sterile soundscapes ruled the roost. With the release of soil the chameleonic serpentwithfeet (born Josiah Wise) rediscovers and ultimately returns to the unhinged version of himself he was sure he had outgrown.

“soil is about me returning home then realizing that i carry home with me daily.”

Following the release of Blisters – his 2016 foray into hybridized pop produced by Björk collaborator The Haxan Cloak – and two big tours, serpentwithfeet returned to the studio in 2017. There, he explored the fullness of his voice and became increasingly interested in playful singing which intrigued recording engineer Jason Agel. That vocal performance was only complicated by his feverish rumination on the dissolution of an impassioned love affair that left him stunned and speeding toward the inevitable – a more intimate relationship with himself. One in which he embraces and mocks his own flaws with abandon, lets an uncharacteristic shock of hair down over his infamously provocative forehead tattoos, makes room for his most pressing sexual desires and returns to the gospel that dominated his formative years. In this embrace of imperfection and romantic failure, serpentwithfeet has found soil; the forthcoming album is his first release for the label partnership between Tri Angle Records and Secretly Canadian.

soil features contributions from rising experimental producer mmph, sound manipulator Katie Gately, A$AP Rocky contemporary Clams Casino, and Paul Epworth – one of the Grammy Award-winning minds responsible for Adele’s critically-acclaimed album 21. The project recorded between New York City’s WhiteWater production house and Epworth’s London studio was co-produced by serpentwithfeet. On this outing he trades glossolalia and peacocking showmanship for intricately layered harmonies, a sumptuous bottom register that appears for the first time to challenge his fluttering tenor, and ballsy sonic experimentation encouraged by Gately, whose talent he describes as “making voices sound like elephants and elephants sound like car engines.” Together they develop an unctuous sound that suggests billowing clouds and the dense, plodding stomp of 12-bar blues. Once concerned with perfect execution of gospel runs and dishing up a gossamer falsetto, serpentwithfeet is out of balance and reveling in the concept of mess on soil. Particularly, what it means to part ways with sterility and the urge to uncoil himself in order to occupy more space. soil is the moment at which he unfolds himself with zero intention of closing back up.

“I’m constantly talking about how black men are always manspreading and pushed to be these super masculine, bovine – seven foot niggas. For a long time I was interested in what would happen if we rebelled against that and we were small. I was into the minutiae and then I realized I wanted to take up space again. I have practiced that smallness and quietness and that’s fine, but now I don’t want to be that delicate. I’m not interested in that right now. This album definitely pushed me in that way. There’s a certain naivete in this new music. With the blisters EP, I was trying to prove a point to myself and the listener. I was trying to string together a lot of ideas before. This time I wasn’t trying to sound smart. I was as crafty as I could be with the words, but I just wanted to keep my eyes open and be accountable for what I was seeing .”


Evocative of the stillness of lying down and feeling the gravitational pull of the earth beneath the body, soil is a writhing, electronic melodrama that pairs synth woodwinds and sinister transitions with serpentwithfeet’s extra-terrestrial timbre. The album elevates his most persistent weaknesses, and revisits the trinity of r&b, gospel, and pop that drove earlier projects. serpentwithfeet busies himself with a manic range of emotion which includes sobbing, laughing, mocking his own truculence and identifying his proclivity to smother lovers as a trait antithetical to the kind of intimacy they seek. He speaks as tenderly to the mythical men of his dreams as he does former lovers. His humor is apparent on songs like “seedless,” “messy,” and “slow syrup,” which poke fun at his overbearing presence in the lives of partners. serpentwithfeet tinkers with the extremes of his ideals to illustrate the ways in which past partners have felt oppressed by his needs; he likens them to unreasonable questions like, “Will you show up for me if I ask you to sharpen your teeth because we don’t have any knives and I need someone to cut this food?” “cherubim” and “fragrant” elucidate the connection between romantic obsession and the sentiments of church songs about unwavering devotion to god in statements like, “I get to devote my life to him, I get to sing like the cherubim.” In seeking to commune with a higher power across a number of bodies, from the individual self to the embrace of a lover and the sanctity of partnership, serpentwithfeet is responsible for a compilation that forces consciousness of the myriad intersections at which god exists.

At once whimsical and mechanical, soil traverses the depths of human emotion in search of love. The music inspired by “intense collaborative work” is an extension of the mourning ritual a crestfallen serpentwithfeet first created to grieve heartbreak. He cites influences as varied as lullabies, an affinity for pungent body odor, his doll collection, and his mother’s love of traditional hymns. soil conjures his early fascinations with Brandy and Björk as easily as it references the pageantry of anthemic compositions by Antonin Dvorak and the ecstatic praise of the black church; the abiding prayer house rhythm is established by industrial washing machines on Gately’s opener “whisper.” serpentwithfeet is explicit, however, in breaking with the condemnations of taboo subjects in order to deliver the language necessary to provide black, queer people with a heartfelt, futurist folk –– a new mother tongue constructed to override his prolonged inability to articulate his love life because he had no knowledge of an established standard for speaking about intimate experiences beyond the binary lens of heterosexuality. In being vulnerable enough to vocalize his journey, serpentwithfeet encourages a systematic dismantling of the shame that is appended to homosexuality through the creation of a sonic space buoyed by radical acts of love and sustained repetition of his innermost thoughts.

“I remember growing up there was language for how men and women interact. I don’t have a lot of examples of black gay men that are out here thriving. Because of social media we see more examples but at the time when I was thinking about this and dealing with my own relationship, I had difficulty articulating my feelings. I hate to say it , but I think there is still a lot of shame around two black men dating and loving on each other and I was very aware of that. While working on soil, i was exploring and trying to make sense of my needs and my love language. Because of this process, I’ve fallen in love with my idiosyncrasies. I’m growing my hair again. With this album I gave myself permission to let the leaves grow, let the flowers bloom, let myself be hairy and let my sound be hairy. I’m excited about the way things naturally come out of my body. I am always going to embrace discipline and streamlining. But I’m in a space at the moment where I don’t need or desire the corset. It’s time for expansiveness.”
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Members Only

Secretly Society members gain access to these limited-edition items…and many more


WHAT IS SECRETLY SOCIETY?

The record club reinvented

Secretly Society is our spin on a classic idea - the record club. The pitch is simple. One record, in an exclusive, Secretly Society vinyl color, shipped to your door every month. Oh yeah, and shipping is included.

IS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE?

Yes. Yes it is.

WHAT RECORDS WILL I GET?

Expect a mix of new artists, established vets, and important represses from our extensive Secretly Group back catalog, featuring the best of Dead Oceans, Jagjaguwar, and Secretly Canadian. See the already-announced albums above!

WHAT IF I HATE THIS MONTH'S ALBUM?

Yikes! Hate seems a bit strong. We would recommend you at least give it another, fresh listen. If you are absolutely sure you'll hate it, that's totally fine. We offer an opportunity to "Skip" a month's album and go to the next one. You get 1 Skip every 6 months, so use it wisely. To use your Skip email us at society@secretlystore.com.

WHEN DO I GET MY RECORDS?

Great question. You receive your first album the month after you join, as soon as the calendar flips. So, no matter whether you sign up on September 1st or September 30th, the first record you receive will be in October. Shortly after subscriptions close on the 1st of the month, we begin shipping that month’s albums, and we'll usually be able to send out all Secretly Society shipments in the first full week of a given month. All of that adds up to US customers receiving their records in the second week of the month and international customers in the third or fourth week. We understand that the Secretly Society timeline doesn't always play nicely with album release dates, so feel free to hit us up with questions at society@secretlystore.com.

LET'S TALK MONEY.

Definitely. Here's how it works: you pay for the entire subscription up front, one time, shipping included. Cool, right? Then you have until your subscription ends to cancel your plan or it will auto-renew for another period. So, if you signed up for a 3 month subscription on August 15th, you have until November 15th to decline to renew your membership. Otherwise, we assume you're loving Secretly Society and want to continue.

OK, WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

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