The Black Angels Just what is a secret machine, and why is it so hush-hush? It could be anything, really. (Our guess is it's the equipment that keeps all of Sen. Ted Stevens' Internets moving through that series of tubes he's always talking about.) But in the case of the Dallas-born, New York-bred three-piece the Secret Machines, the only real secret is why the band's unique take on jangly indie pop hasn't already reached critical mass (or why the band isn't on the main stage at Bleeding Kansas, for that matter). Chances are, the first question won't be a question much longer, what with the Machines' most recent release, Ten Silver Drops, practically drowning in praise from both listeners and reviewers alike. Aaron Ladage
Rage, revolution and the barely visible specter of redemption lurk in the shadows of the Black Angels' psychedelic throwback drone-rock. Farming the same fertile ground plowed by Black Mountaintops, Brian Jonestown Massacre and the like, this Austin, Texas, outfit's most obvious touchstones are Spacemen 3 (the more blues-driven side) and the Velvet Underground (the noisy side). More than just a me-too contestant in the psychedelic bake-off, however, the Black Angels seek to draw insightful musical and lyrical parallels between the '60s and the double-oughts, between the post-Kennedy era and the post-Clinton era. The floor tom pounds tribally, an organ mumbles a plaintive and unbroken tone, the bass thuds and stumbles, the guitar surges and swirls, and the singer cryptically mourns and decries a seemingly endless war. The band's live show is a nihilistic bacchanal in which performers and audience curse the darkness, light candles and, finally, succumb to the sweet, suffocating haze.