In the past, Raleigh’s Blursome and Carrboro’s Secret Boyfriend have had little in common. Yes, they are both monikers for individual electronic musiciansBlursome for the young producer Lara Wehbie, Secret Boyfriend for likely the area’s most devoted experimental impresario, Ryan Martin. And both acts have proven vital to their respective scenes, with Blursome becoming a linchpin of the area’s beat-based upstarts and Secret Boyfriend serving as a magnet for innumerable strains of local weirdness.
Musically, however, they have felt mostly like strangers. On her grand 2014 debut, Heavy Resting, Wehbie dug deep between the grooves of dubstep, focusing on the pillowed sides of the bass until the space between the meters became a gorgeous, swirling expanse of samples and static. Martin, meanwhile, has sent shards of songs through all manner of effects and exorcisms, shocking his tunes until they turned into strange, disfigured beauties.
You might have spotted some of the same influences and impulses in the music of bothlike the need, for instance, to hold the listener just beyond arm’s length, with the creator standing in the shadow of the creation. That was the limit of the link. Yet, on each of their new albums, Blursome and Secret Boyfriend take steps in opposite directions to arrive in very similar, wonderfully secluded places. The moves are excellent looks for each artist, representing new individual benchmarks.
The six tracks of Secret Boyfriend’s Memory Care Unit feel haunted, as though a ghost sighs through the machines that Martin manipulates. He gives the specter flesh during “The Singing Bile,” an eerily oscillating drone that suggests the slow fade of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops. Backed by a drum machine that hits and drifts so casually it seems as if someone has forgotten it’s on, “Stripping at the Nail” feels like exit music for the Twin Peaks roadhouse. Martin’s languid voice drapes around a refracted guitar line like a heavy blanket, both resting on a pillow of synthesizers so soft they seem to be breaking down.