The Wire magazine April issue 302 includes a review of A Secret Life.
A secret life is a work of exquisite poise, in the spirit of the ambient albums that early ultravox member John Foxx recorded with Harold Budd, Translucence And Drift Music. This album has a Budd connection, as it happens – it was after performing with him in 2005 that Foxx and former Japan drummer Steve Jansen began collaborating together, but the tracks they worked on remained unfinished until producer Steve D’Agostino completed them last year.
Foxx’s take on ambient has always explored the uncanny space between quiet and disquiet, between vague unease and alien tranquillity. Jansen’s tam-tams fit into this aesthetic extremely well. They have the curious quality of at once dominating the music – their ominous shimmer is the basis for all the tracks here – and of receding from attention, withdrawing into a background hum. Foxx’s piano is the lead instrument, but it is used exceptionally sparingly, so that the delayed notes linger in the memory long after they are actually heard. Sometimes the piano makes you think of the (impossible) sound of a submerged church bell; elsewhere it has a piercing, crystalline iciness; at other times it resembles satie figures being wistfully played in a drowned world hotel suite.
Using only the sparsest of means – effects, glistening electronics and wind chime percussion in addition to the piano and tam-tams – the six tracks traverse a range of moods. Part 2 begins with a gently insistent piano refrain and ends in a landscape that is as harsh and windswept as 1990s isolationism. ultimately, though, this is an album which excels at the art of going nowhere. like all the best ambient, it suspends the agitations and urgencies of the everyday, drawing the listener into a state of near stillness where the most minimal perturbation is intensely felt.