Our 24/7 connectivity, combined with our collective “share” compulsion has made the notion of “keeping secrets” slippery, which is why the idea of anonymity holds such appeal. The Residents and Burial certainly recognized its power, and although they used it very differently, the more determined they were to conceal their identity, inevitably, the greater the curiosity generated. Now, we simultaneously crave mystery and demand full disclosure from artists.
It’s a dichotomy Mysteries no doubt appreciate. Their name makes their intent plain enough, and they arrive with biographical detail so minimal as to be useless (they’re a trio, they may be from the West Coast). In photographs, they are either in head-to-toe disguise or wearing facemasks. Their website currently features an image of Wild Beasts with three members’ heads scribbled over, a cheeky nod to the fact that some sleuths thought they’d uncovered Mysteries’ true identity.
Exactly who they are is, of course, irrelevant to their debut album New Age Music Is Here, which is neither “new age music” in the panpipes sense, nor in the sense of being radical, but instead is a darkly alluring set that mixes muscular synth pop, art rock with torch-song overtones, and somber electronic effects, occasionally — as in the introductory title track – in the same song.
Mysteries’ seduction — most evident on “Authenticity Machine,” where their singer croons, “Hold me, love me, feel me, touch me” — is both irresistible and unsettling, and reaches its peak on “Trust,” the slo-mo closer that’s equal parts last-dance romance and manacled shuffle to the execution chamber. It’s a safe bet that Depeche Mode, Scott Walker and Angelo Badalamenti loom large in their affections, although not exclusively. Industrio-disco stomp “Deckard,” which was the trio’s digital calling card, suggests Battles tackling Arthur Russell. The measured emotional wobble of “Knight Takes Rook” recalls Antony & the Johnsons, while “Newly Thrown” and “Stateless Wonder” are reminiscent of Perfume Genius. But there’s a dancefloor swagger that counters those similarities, infusing the latter track especially with a menacing urgency and clattering, comedown despair.
“In The Dark” is the most literal expression of this saturnine world, an alluringly murky symphony of funereal synth chords, shuddering percussion and the murmur of promises made at dawn. It’s where Mysteries would like to keep us — for now, at least.