Secret Asian Men‘s last output, Secrets Beyond the Room, invoked fuzz-filled lo-fi rock with sun-drenched qualities – eyes half-closed, bathing in feedback. Their new EP, Contrast, appears to be in the same vein, though it features the addition of swirling psychedelic elements that sometimes lend it a poppier feel; it’s a change that attempts to capitalize on the band’s strengths in creating their particular atmosphere.
They previously showed some versatility with the presence of tracks such as “1987,” a quiet gem amidst the jangling, and Contrast feels even more diversified in its short run time. “Hurdles” is almost akin to dream-pop, “Convict” explores an old-school space rock vibe. The most aggressive aspects of Secrets Beyond the Room have been reined in here, the post-punk march of “Time” preferring instead stability in its drive.
Secret Asian Men have proven themselves to be capable of drawing from a variety of genres and influences, and to be able to reiterate the general appeal of them. But they’ve yet to carve out a sound distinct enough to separate them from their peers and forebearers. This isn’t a weakness that immediately detracts from the enjoyability of their music; their musicianship is adequate, their songwriting a solid representation of what makes pleasant tracks in the realms of shoegaze, psychedelic, and garage rock. Nevertheless, I can’t say that there are any particularly striking moments on Contrast, despite its greater scope of exploration in comparison to Secrets Beyond the Room. Secrets Beyond the Room possesses the more effective hooks, alleviating complaints that one might have had about repetitiveness; Contrast, on the other hand, spreads itself a bit thin in trying to capture a myriad of styles.
In retrospect, had Secret Asian Men synthesized something from the best aspects of Secrets Beyond the Room and Contrast, it would have been a notable evolution for their sound. As it stands, each displays one particular aptitude of the band.