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Satelliti
Transister Nick Southall , November 27th, 2013 07:18

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In my experience, people fear jazz. Which makes me sad, because a lot of jazz is awesome. In fact, a good chunk of my favourite records this year – Sons of Kemet, These New Puritans, Melt Yourself Down, The Necks, Colin Stetson, San Fermin – are either categorically jazz themselves, or else owe at least some debt to this maligned genre. Satelliti, an Italian duo comprising Andrea Polato (drums) and Marco Dalle Luche (keyboards and synths) who formed three years ago, are another name to add to that list. Transister, their debut album, is 45 minutes of intense, driven music that seems, at first glimpse, to be a purely jazz affair, but which actually contains the DNA of huge amount of rock and dance music, most notably krautrock and techno, but also stoner rock, house, and much more besides.

Before I extrapolate on Satelliti themselves, allow me a minute to consider jazz some more. I asked what people on Twitter thought of jazz a couple of days ago, and received a barrage of responses from fans, writers, and musicians alike. With a few exceptions, almost everyone expressed some sort of nervousness regarding it, a sense of liking some bits but not too much, of trepidation and worrying about not understanding it. I decided to get into jazz at the same time as I decided to get into red wine; aged 19, home for Christmas after my first term at university. I asked for a bottle of something Spanish and a Miles Davis album, and received a good rioja and Kind Of Blue. Fifteen years later and both have become key parts of how I live my life, of who I think I am.

Some people might feel like it's unnatural or pretentious to consciously decide to try and 'get into' something like jazz, as if the only worthwhile actions human beings can undertake are those that follow some kind of authentically visceral grunting animal instinct. But that's bullshit; the fact that we can decide to consciously do things, choose to learn, to persevere, to better ourselves, is what makes us human. There are techniques for doing everything and anything better, even things we think are instinctive and natural; physiotherapy can make you walk better, Alexander Technique can make you breath better, elocution can make you speak better. Deciding to 'get into' jazz is no different than deciding to try riding a bike or playing football or learning a language, and it can be just as rewarding.

The noise Satelliti make is a fabulous and aggressive one, somewhere between early 70s jazz-fusion and mid 90s full-throttle techno for the most part. Andrea Polato's drums are part motorik, part dance beats, but light on their feet, malleable and expressive, while Marco Dalle Luche provides both a humming, distorted analogue rhythmic pulse that loops through most tracks, and an exploratory, sometimes anarchic improvisation over the top of everything else, part pseudo-303 squelch, part dappled electric piano, part synthesiser chaos. Neither one of the pair seems like a leader, tracks instead feeling like the culmination of a symbiotic relationship, the result of three years of improvisation and experimentation. It stamps on your chest as much as it transports your headspace, a brilliant, high-impact meld of the physiological and the psychedelic.

The only thing even approaching a mis-step is the ruminative, exploratory pairing of 'Brother Green' and 'Esprit De Corps' in the middle of the album; firstly, sequencing these two tracks together creates a false lull in the centre of the record, and secondly, 'Brother Green' ends with a strange spoken-word passage about a woman falling off the edge of the world which, to British ears, is just a little Athena-poster in tone. Coming after the propulsive acid-techno-improv of 'Young Wolf' it feels out of place. Sans words, 'Brother Green' itself is absolutely fine, comprised of the kind of bubbling, electronic concentric circles that you find in between the mayhem of early 70s Miles Davis albums, when Joe Zawinul would let his hands dance together across the keys and find unconscious patterns, huge wafts of enormous electric piano distortion swelling through the soundstage. Similarly 'Esprit De Corps' floats on repetitive filigrees of organ and shimmers of hi-hat, soporific and beatific amidst its anxiously driven bedfellows. Spliced between moments of propulsion it would come as welcome respite, but paired with 'Brother Green' it may stray too far into aimless wibbling for some.

The 10-minute 'Bright Tunnel' thoroughly explores, dissects, and rebuilds a groove through various phases, starting off like a straight piece of techno not unlike Underworld before evolving again and again. M83 wishes he was as blissfully metronomic and neon as the title track, analogue wails streaming outwards from the speakers and through the listener at ninety miles an hour. Satelliti have expressed a desire to take their music directly into nightclubs, to play live for people to dance to, and for at least 70 percent of Transister's running time they embody that ambition brilliantly. If the word jazz frightens you, then think of what they do as rock, or dance, or something else entirely, because what they do is all of those things at once, and it deserves to be heard.

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Tenbenson
Nov 27, 2013 1:34pm

It's a banger, eh? Killer drummer.

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Nov 27, 2013 4:53pm

Yeah, brilliant record. That combination of 70s Miles with driving electronics puts me in mind of Heldon in places.

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Michael E.
Nov 29, 2013 8:24pm

Nick again, after The Necks! Another discovery!!!

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