Album Reviews

Satelliti – Transister

(Cuckundoo) UK release date: 28 October 2013

Satelliti - Transister You hit the play button. Rat-a-tat percussion. Pneumatic synth. Discordant organ keys flourishing into an almighty racket. Dense layers of sound that occupy every possible spectrum of the soundscape. Two minutes have not yet passed.

Over the next two minutes the track grows more frantic still. An increasingly agitated drummer thrashes his kit, though he stays skin-tight; occasionally pausing, in fact, in deference to hammered notes that seem to expand for the brief intervals in which they’re pronounced unencumbered.

On drums, Andrea Polato. On keys, Marco Dalle Luche. Together they’re Satelliti, a two-man tour de force of jazz-rock fusion from the northern Italian town of Bolzano. The track is Voltage, the bold, unapologetic opening salvo of the pair’s new album Transister.

As Voltage collapses in on itself to be replaced by Canada – an evasive, gently reverberating experiment that grows from classic lounge music tones to a glorious, gain-laden din – a realisation settles upon the listener: Satelliti are not here to win friends. Canada’s tentative first steps are melodic – mild-mannered, in fact – and they subtly suggest that Voltage was a test, a red herring; that you’re soon to enjoy classic jazz chops as a reward. Its borderline-chaotic second half soon puts paid to such assumptions.

The post-rock of Young Wolf puts the bellows to Transister’s fire, allowing it to crescendo into a fully-fledged inferno. Dalle Luche’s glitch-like licks invite Polato to spit out breathless fills before settling into a (comparatively) standard beat as the overdrive levels begin to rise. It’s as close as the duo come to conventional rock, sounding like an instrumental Suuns or even Atoms For Peace.

It’s not to last, of course. Brother Green, like Canada, embarks on its journey with harmonic, lightly pulsating chords, melting away the aural assault of its predecessor; unlike Canada, it stays the course, with brushed percussion paving the way for an unhurried, meandering solo that occupies centrestage until the very end.

Yet the differences between these passages are less pronounced in practice than they are when accounted for in writing. Drop in on Transister at any given stage and you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint which track is playing. It’s sort of the point, of course – the pair “resent boundaries” and the album is “a voyage” – but homogeneity hangs in the air like an elusive-yet-noticeable fugue, and the route from the first track to the last is freeform in detail yet static in a broader sense. Like eccentric wizards on the Tube, their chatter is fascinating – but you know exactly where they’re going.

Still, Transister is intriguing and Satelliti moreso. Perhaps it speaks volumes that the album’s standout track, Little Princess, is also its most conventional, but it nevertheless remains a few steps left of the norm. Yes, you may have to file under “challenging” and revisit it only sparingly, but persistence will pay off. Probably.

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Satelliti – Transister