"A SECRET WISH" is the carefully constructed first album from the German group Propaganda, produced by Steve Lipson and Trevor Horn, master puppeteer behind Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Call it architectural music, or Reich and roll.
Lipson and Horn play computer games with the band's likable melodies, piling on production pyrotechnics akin to the Frankies' near-hysterical sound. The sonic blueprint combines Depeche Mode/"Midnight Express" sequencer surges and metallic edges with mechanistic, martial rhythms and emotionless, faintly sinister female vocals in a Germanic accent, a la Nico.
"A Secret Wish" goes the grand tour from delicacy to Wagnerian bombast, beginning with an eight- minute "overture" called "A Dream Within a Dream," which opens with a narration of Poe's poem. This pompous, straightfaced symphonic stuff would be laughable, if the widescreen sound and constantly shifting textures weren't so seductive.
The album also includes the band's first single, "Dr. Mabuse," which sounds like a danceable horror movie soundtrack. Most of the music has high commercial potential, especially the current single "Duel," with its cheery melody and chilling lyrics, and "Sorry for Laughing." The pieced-together noise collage "Jewel," and "P-Machinery" continue Horn's Art of Noise experiments, but with more pure pop feel.
PROPAGANDA -- "A Secret Wish" (ZTT 7 90288-4); appearing Sunday at the 9:30 Club, 930 F St. NW.