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Hey! Listen! – Extra Various

By / Posted on 12 October 2011

Secret Mommy - Extra VariousAndy Dixon is an incredibly talented and prolific artist. Besides his work as a photographer and graphic designer, he’s got his own record label (which handled artists like Hot Hot Heat and Death From Above 1979) and fingers in more music production pies than anybody else whose name isn’t Damon Albarn. Most recognized for his sample-based glitch pop under the moniker Secret Mommy, Dixon has been writing, recording and producing convention-defying rock, jazz and IDM music since he was twelve years old, roughly twenty years ago. It’s only natural that, after all these years, Dixon would have an assortment of songs that never fit onto any of his past LPs and would, therefore, largely never be heard. This sounds like the perfect opportunity for a compilation of b-sides and rarities. Oh hey, look, it’s Extra Various, a collection of “rarer things & remixes.” Perfect!

As one might expect, Extra Various covers the breadth of Dixon’s musical output more than any of his other albums, primarily because it is culled from many years and several different projects. Much like Les Savy Fav’s Inches compilation, the material here largely traces Secret Mommy’s musical career in reverse chronological order, starting with two of the most recent tracks from 7″ singles and ending with remixes from Dixon’s pre-Secret Mommy band The Red Light String and his former bandmate’s project Operation Makeout. These bookends are by far the greatest rockers of the package, with enough enthusiasm and percussive force to keep heads nodding and shoulders popping, but a steady sense of dread to keep people from having too good a time. Those early Secret Mommy remixes (“That’s Not My Girlfriend, Those Are Girls Shaving” and “You and Me and Geometry”) demonstrate the general playfulness of Dixon’s approach to music, creating a sort of hardcore-thrash-glitch-dance-pop bound to confuse scenesters and delight wallflowers. Opener “Woody Allen, David Koresh” is the closest Dixon’s come yet to a crossover hit club-crushing party jam and is instantly labelled as lifelong mixtape fodder. Just as the mature and delicate multi-instrumental layers and the snarled static beat become so infectious as to drive the audience to throwing away pretensions and having a good time, the track abruptly decides that it has proven its point and ends, making way for the remarkably dense orchestration of “To Live in Vancouver in the Summer of 2008.”

In between these bookends of ferocious disinterest in the outside world are 13 more entirely pleasant distractions, mostly glitch-based percussion and synth warbles, like “Holga” which sounds as though it were largely based on samples taken from the cheaply-made plastic camera of the same name with film advance clicks and the high-pitched whistle of a flash bulb warming up. It’s a glorious soundscape of forced alterations to natural sounds that are equal parts tense and relaxed. Throw in some remixes of non-Dixon artists like You Say Party! We Say Die!, Takehisa Ken and Azeda Booth for good measure/variety and you’ve got a stellar package of rarely-heard material from an intensely fascinating audio architect. Four American dollars is a paltry sum of change for these seventeen tracks on Secret Mommy’s Bandcamp page, but the undecided can stream the entire album above. Well worth some of your extra time.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.