Recommended: Secret Songs – shh#000000

Ryan Hemsworth, of Truancy Volume 46 fame among other things, started up his label Secret Songs just over 8 months ago as a selflessly pure way of sharing music, free of pressure and politics. In his own words, it’s a platform for “distinct sounds by unique artists who aren’t getting the shine they deserve”. In the time since Secret Songs been active, Ryan has delivered on this promise and the fortnightly output is always worthy of attention. As well as impressive regular singles from the likes of Sega Bodega, Toby Gale, even an 808 Mafia banger from TM88 and Rome Fortune, there has also been the release of two compilations.

Each of these compilations is labelled with a hex code that represents a colour and this is what provides the common theme between tracks. The first was called shh#ffb6c1 (a light shade of pink), putting a spotlight on spritely sounds and some incredible female producers, such as et aliae and Qrion. This time round we have shh#000000 which is, well, black. That’s interesting straight off the bat in that black is probably not the first colour that comes to mind if you had to assign one to Ryan’s musical output, although it undoubtedly has a tendency to touch on motifs such as loneliness and detachment.

The tone is set immediately here with Fifty Grand’s “when you go back alone”, both in name and sound. A dark ambient fog sits heavy with ghostly stretched vocals before fading out, only to whir back in at double the intensity, double the dread. There’s a sense of dread in a lot of the compilation and the next two tracks follow suit. “GULLY” by fknsyd builds upon the ambience set previously, livening it up with some imploding percussion and disorientating rewinding (straight from the Noah “40” Shebib school of production). Young Gutted’s work on “Facts” is loosely reminiscent of something from Lil Ugly Mane’s nasty rap beats playbook and Wiki from Ratking laces it with his well known, aggravated flow.

Dread isn’t the only feeling construed on the theme, however, and that keeps things fresh over a listen in full. Both Morly’s “Maelstrom” and Beat Culture’s “CLOSER” really stir the emotions and are notable for their use of voice. A thick, aching syllabic chant is the star of the former while it’s sparse percussive pads and stirring guitars cement the sense of yearning. The latter uses vocals in a slightly more conventional manner but just as effectively, with the repeated line “How can I resist you?” in particular sounding so unsettling and flat out resigned. Don’t sleep on that stunning, soak it all up whilst throwing your arms out in Jesus pose breakdown either.

This compilation even caters for those who the colour black invites a longing for their favourite dark and dusky club. Truants favourite Dro Carey delivers what might be a standout track in the form of “Rollcage” and its whiplash inducing broken beats. Fever Trails’ “Scrum” will have you bopping away (although slightly less furiously) with its drums that scatter from ear to ear and textured synth lines that would make Jon Hopkins proud. Even in the tracks not mentioned here, shh#000000 excels across the board. In the age of Soundcloud, of which Secret Sounds is somewhat a celebration, it’s all too easy to assemble several tracks and call it a compilation. This makes it especially notable that these tracks work together in a front-to-back listen as well as when taken in isolation. Despite the haunting tones, it’s clear that shh#000000 is the result of a lot of love and care, a theme that goes equally for Secret Songs in its entirety.

shh#000000 is available to download for free here.

Matt Coombs