Olie Brice, Binker Golding, Henry Kaiser, N.O. Moore, Eddie Prévost – The Secret Handshake with Danger Vol. One
(577 Records 5860-1. CD Review by Dan Bergsagel)
The Secret Handshake is practically dripping with raw free-improvisation live energy; this is an album suited to a heavy atmosphere and the awed silence of half-empty rooms in unlikely places. Whether holed up above a London pub – where the two-track album was recorded, in Westpoint Studios – or in a Brooklyn basement – where the album is released by the increasingly active and transatlantic reaching 577 Records – this feels like a stolen live moment.
Door 1 is a pretty bloody furtive opener – pacey percussion, spooked guitars, lost sax. The quintet grows and stomps over Olie Brice on bass and Eddie Prévost’s drums. The “Recommended If You Like” reads electro-jazz Miles Davis and a chaotic Sun Ra, but it also tips a solid hat to the deconstructive music of London Loop Collective band Fraud, and the brief, heady moment when James Allsopp’s reeds and Stian Westerhus’s guitars combined over double percussion. The Secret Handshake presents that same intensity; that same full-tilt reeds and guitars communion.
Door 1 comes and goes, but is at its core a fast-moving session of slipping guitars and guitar-originating blips interwoven by N.O. Moore and Henry Kaiser, tied together through intermittent support from and feedback collisions with Binker Golding’s enviable sax bluster. Door 2 leaves a comparatively gaping space, and time to think and catch a breath. There are brief opportunities for Brice’s bass to seep through, but Door 2 is structured on a series of head-to-head electronic meltdowns and psychedelic space journeys from Kaiser and Moore.
Recorded in a one-day live session on 12 March 2020, it feels like bottled ambience from another era – a final blow-out. The mix and master from Shane Shanahan and Bob Olhsson is spot on. Door 1, in particular, feels like you’re sitting in Henry Kaiser’s lap being given an intense scowl by Golding. The best recommendation for this is to plug in and tag out for a 40-min experience that is increasingly hard to find these days.