Secret Drum Band : Chuva

featured photo by Marcus Fisher

It’s hard to describe Secret Drum Band’s Chuva, the Portland music collective’s second full-length album and first with the great Moon Glyph Records. It’s nothing like anything Moon Glyph has dabbled in before, with the focus here on rhythm and powerful soundscapes created with intricately orchestrated percussion, ambient electronics, and ecological soundscapes rooted in study and observations from Hawaii, the Brazilian Amazon, and Oregon.

So imagine a masterclass in rhythm and groove, colored with electronics and the sound of the wind or rain or distant voices acting as a backdrop. That’s the feeling I get when listening to Chuva. It’s an all-engaging and visceral sonic experience. Not a drum circle, but a drum world that opens into the universe.

There’s an urgency on this album, and knowing what’s going on in Portland right now gives this album even more urgency. The music collective, directed by Lisa Schonberg(of Explode Into Colors) and Allan Wilson(of !!!), builds intricate layers of sound through drums, found sound, and electronic noise that acts as a circuital connective tissue to the chaos in the world. The collective includes Heather Treadway, Brian Mumford, Amenta Abioto, Eddie Bond, Marisa Anderson, Ali Clarys, Leah Bowden, Rachel Blumberg and Scott Seckington. Under the direction of Schonberg and Wilson Secret Drum Band build a tribal experience. You feel this album. It hits hard.

Take something like the sound and fury of “Antifa Fuschia” and “Antifa Green”. According to Secret Drum Band these tracks “were recorded by Heather Treadway and Schonberg during an alt-right rally in Portland, OR. They were created in direct response and borne from anxiety, frustration and a sense of duty to resist the fascist creep.” You can hear the urgency in these songs, but also a freedom of spirit and a need to fight the hate thru music. That’s the thru line throughout Chuva.

You can’t help but want to move while listening to tracks like “Alaka‘i Swamp” and “Robert Plants”, or “Surface of Abyss at Ducke”, which was inspired by ongoing research on ant acoustic communication with entomologists in Brazil. “Terra Firme” and “Multispecies(Ants)” were also inspired by that research.

Musically I’m reminded of the percussion works of Steve Reich, the tribal grooves of Fela Kuti, Stewart Copeland’s The Rhythmatist, and Glenn Kotche’s album Mobile. But really, Secret Drum Band are there own thing. Unique in sound, style, and technique.

Chuva locks into the organic nature of creativity, while expanding on the concept of activism thru art. Activism environmentally, politically, and socially. Secret Drum Band have made a record filled with visceral, musical power in a time when we need just that.

Chuva is available now via Moon Glyph Records. Buy it here. 

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