Album Review: Secret World

Secret World is the new album from a New York, USA-based folk and blues collective that have just come to my attention.

By Graeme Smith

The album was conceived by Aayushi Karnik and joining her on the record are Daniel Hass, Cole Davis, Jackson Earles, Jameel Martin, Julia Birnbaum and Hesoo Cha. The collective met in New York, all getting behind the idea for the album after a conversation about it. It opens with a bit of Brahms, rearranged for the ensemble. Blessed are they – A German Requiem gives us an atmospheric and folksy start with some stunning choral vocals.

Prayer with a Bribe comes next, giving us some straight yet experimental country blues with plenty of finger picking and expressive strings. It has a subversive message, questioning faith in a higher power while relying on it. April Frost sits musically between the first two tracks, combining classical influences with modern folk. It’s a wonderfully engrossing instrumental highlight.

Frank’s Song slows things down a little with a reflective and introspective arrangement. The storytelling in its lyrics had me gripped. Pannonica was inspired by Thelonious Monk and carries with it a sense of quirky whimsy. Subway Stop Blues is a slow-burning lament aimed at New York public transport where Aayushi’s vocals are at their most soulful. Sunday Ride livens things back up again, capturing the freedom of Aayushi’s scooter rides growing up in India. It provides a nice contrast to Subway Stop Blues and is another highlight.

Summer Child is beautifully dreamy and poetic, taking the form of an inner dialogue. It builds to a pleasantly chaotic crescendo. Sunrise is a suitably sleepy ballad which feels like the sonic equivalent of the first few rays of light creeping through the blinds. Fire Escape then closes the album with a boundary pushing meditation on the city that never sleeps. Its psych folk sensibilities make it a final highlight.

Secret World was produced by Doug Wamble, and recorded and mixed Ryan Howe at his hifi.howie studio in Brooklyn. You can give it a listen below.