Darcy James Argue's Secret Society -
Brooklyn-based composer-bandleader Darcy James Argue and his innovative 18-piece big band Secret Society will release their third album, Real Enemies, out September 30, 2016. Composed by Argue, Real Enemies is a 13-chapter exploration of America’s fascination with conspiracy theories; narratives behind the Red Scare, the Illuminati, Edward Snowden, and alien sightings are meticulously examined and interrogated through Argue’s dazzling score.
Real Enemies debuted as a multimedia performance (co-created by Argue with writer/director Isaac Butler and filmmaker Peter Nigrini) to impressive acclaim at BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival. Taking its title from Kathryn Olmsted’s 2009 book Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11, the project is the product of extensive research into a broad range of conspiracies, from the familiar and well-documented to the speculative to the outlandish. Real Enemies traces the historical roots, iconography, and language of conspiracies, and examines conspiratorial thinking as a distinct political ideology. It chronicles a shadow history of postwar America, touching on everything from COINTELPRO to the the CIA-Contra cocaine trafficking ring to secret weather control machines to reptilian shape-shifters from Alpha Draconis infiltrating our government at the highest level. Real Enemies invites the listener to explore and engage with the conspiratorial mindset. Argue explains:
“Belief in conspiracies is one of the defining aspects of modern culture. It transcends political, economic, and other divides. Conservative or liberal, rich or poor, across all races and backgrounds there exists a conspiratorial strain of thought that believes there are forces secretly plotting against us. Conspiracy theories often take hold because they provide an explanation for disturbing realities. They tell a story about why the world is the way it is. Paradoxically, it’s often more comforting to believe that bad things happen because they are part of a hidden agenda than it is to believe that they came about as a result of mistakes, ineptitude, or random chance.”
As befitting a journey into postwar paranoia, Real Enemies draws heavily on 12-tone techniques, a compositional system based on a tone rows — a sequence of all 12 pitches in the chromatic scale — devised by Arnold Schoenberg in the aftermath of World War I and embraced by American composers during the conspiracy-rich postwar era. However, Argue’s wide-ranging score exhibits a mischievous disregard for how those techniques have been traditionally deployed. Other musical touchstones include the paranoia-inducing film scores of Michael Small (The Parallax View) and David Shire (All The President’s Men), the revolutionary songs of Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, the psychedelic space-jazz of Sun Ra, the FM synth-fueled grooves of early 1980’s LA electro funk-influenced hip hop, and much more. Significant pieces of spoken text from figures like JFK, Frank Church, George H. W. Bush, and Dick Cheney are expertly woven throughout the robust and provocative score, with a concluding voice-over narration provided by actor James Urbaniak. Real Enemies is an intense musical and sensory experience that spins and explores a web of paranoia and distrust, and resonates long after its last note
Real Enemies Personnel:
Dave Pietro - piccolo, flute, alto flute, bass flute, soprano sax, alto sax
Rob Wilkerson - flute, clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax
Sam Sadigursky - E♭ clarinet, B♭ clarinet, A clarinet, tenor sax
John Ellis - clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax
Carl Maraghi - clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone
Seneca Black - trumpet, flugelhorn
Jonathan Powell - trumpet, flugelhorn
Matt Holman - trumpet, flugelhorn
Nadje Noordhuis - trumpet, flugelhorn
Ingrid Jensen - trumpet, flugelhorn
Mike Fahie - trombone
Ryan Keberle - trombone
Jacob Garchik - trombone, tuba
Jennifer Wharton - bass trombone, tuba
Sebastian Noelle - acoustic & electric guitar
Adam Birnbaum - acoustic & electric piano, FM synth
Matt Clohesy - contrabass & electric bass, bass synth
Jon Wikan - drum set, cajón, misc. percussion
James Urbaniak - narrator on Who Do You Trust? and You Are Here reprise
Darcy James Argue - composer, conductor
Press and News:
NewMusicBox: 2016 Staff Picks - "Argue has a gift for attracting committed, remarkable players and feeding them a stream of witty and sophisticated material, a potent mix that excites the audience’s ears as well as their toes"
The Nation: “I cannot imagine a work in any art form that could evoke the particular madness of our time with more potency than Real Enemies, the album of jazz-orchestra music released this fall by the Brooklyn-based, Canadian-born composer Darcy James Argue.”
Chicago Reader: "Few jazz orchestras still exist these days, but the Secret Society is one of the best and most probing. Argue has written and arranged 13 pieces that stand up to the conceptual underpinnings he's chosen."
Second Inversion: Album of the Week - "The product of extensive research into a broad range of conspiratorial lore, Real Enemies traces the historical roots, iconography, literature, and language of conspiracies, offering a compelling glimpse into the secrets, scandals, and suspicious sneakings-around of the American government."
Agit Reader: "...a record that makes you nod along in feeling and in recognition, but it also grabs your collar and reminds you to look deeper, to question those impulses, and it makes you love it more for having done so."
The Heavy: September 2016 Editors' Picks - "With this album, Darcy James Argue and Secret Society have created a perfect soundtrack for the times, perhaps one of the most culturally relevant pieces of music in 2016. Quite a feat for an ensemble format most people likely assume has long been dead."
Stereogum: Defeating The Jazz Zombies: America’s Music Is Alive & Well — These 7 Artists Are Proof - "This may be the Secret Society’s best album yet, so now is the perfect time to begin exploring their small but highly potent discography."