The Secret Machines, ICA, London

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The Independent Culture

Although they're denizens of New York (out of Dallas), this three-piece couldn't be more different from the garage-punk likes of The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Instead, on last year's mini-album, September 000, and on their recent debut album, Now Here is Nowhere, they've been following a kind of garage-prog route-map, where the American spacerock-cum-psychedelia of Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips is traced back to its roots in the likes of Pink Floyd and Can. And if the mere mention of Floyd makes you wince, don't worry: even when the Machines' songs explore the lesser-charted terrain of the nine-minute point, they're tethered to laser-guided melodies and hinged on the kind of emotive epiphanies that occur when the rhythm kicks hard after a stealthy build-up.

Although they're denizens of New York (out of Dallas), this three-piece couldn't be more different from the garage-punk likes of The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Instead, on last year's mini-album, September 000, and on their recent debut album, Now Here is Nowhere, they've been following a kind of garage-prog route-map, where the American spacerock-cum-psychedelia of Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips is traced back to its roots in the likes of Pink Floyd and Can. And if the mere mention of Floyd makes you wince, don't worry: even when the Machines' songs explore the lesser-charted terrain of the nine-minute point, they're tethered to laser-guided melodies and hinged on the kind of emotive epiphanies that occur when the rhythm kicks hard after a stealthy build-up.

Come to think of it, it's almost like 1997 again, when bands such as Mogwai, Six By Seven and Spiritualized were providing sprawling, drone-rock ripostes to Britpop's then-dwindling three and a half minutes of fame. Spiritualized's Jason Pierce picked the Machines as a support act last year, and the similarities in the way they approach playing live are striking. Like Pierce's sky-scraping mini-orchestra - and, more recently, the Texan instrumentalists Explosions in the Sky - the Machines don't bother with between-song chatter or gaps live. Instead, they treat the set like a mini symphony made up of movements, and full of elemental highs and lows, linking tracks with an echoing guitar that flickers in time with the lightbulbs dotting the stage rear.

The band look striking. Under-lit, and sporting slightly dusty suits and wayward hair, they could be the house band in a 1970s adaptation of HG Wells's The Time Machine. The effect is only enhanced as the opening songs see them grappling with technical gremlins. The vocals disappear at one point, while the mangled riff of their lolloping psych-blues single, "Sad and Lonely", gets even more hammered under Josh Garza's thundering drums, which he seems to play with his whole body. Some dynamics are lost as a result: most notably in "Pharaoh's Daughter", a spaced-out ballad whose lulling, high-pitched coo of "I wonder" recalls something from the Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin album, but plods a little live.

What's lost in subtlety is made up for in impact, and when they find their feet towards the home stretch, it's as if a lever has been pulled and the machine has been bumped into emphatic gear. The stop-start rhythms of "First Wave Intact" prove mightily buffeting, and the thrillingly visceral, distortion-heavy segue into the heads-down, hold-tight krautrock of "Nowhere Again" drives the set to a suitably dislocating climax of feedback and strobe lights. It may take this New York three-piece longer than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to make it, but with a noise like this, the secret will get out.

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