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Satellite Stream Stuart Huggett , April 24th, 2014 10:32

Best known outside of Brighton for its most left-field but widely acclaimed act Gazelle Twin, Anti-Ghost Moon Ray is a label run collectively by four artists: Gazelle Twin herself, fellow producers Acquaintance and Bernholz, and the latter pair's other band, the more straightforward guitar group Great Pagans. Acquaintance's full length debut Satellite Stream is the first of a run of albums due this year from each member of the collective, an outing into 80s tinted pop that lacks the daring of Gazelle Twin's subversions of form, but sharpens the label's focus as a home for distinctive songcraft.

As last year's intricate Parapsychology EP revealed, Acquaintance's Chris Griffin produces crisp, leisurely electronic tracks which shift through multiple, complementary textures as they unfold. Parapsychology's opener 'Telepathic' reappears here and is still Acquaintance's most satisfying song, Griffin's breathy vocal underpinned by soft house rhythms, tropical birdsong and a stretched, wet synth riff.

It's a disappointment that the extended instrumentals of the EP aren't followed up on Satellite Stream, as some pure electronic downtime between these nine sung songs would make for a broader listen. If you're not turned on by Griffin's neutral vocals, performed in the grain-less manner of 80s touchstones Green Gartside, Paddy McAloon and (we keep forgetting) Simon Climie, then it's easier to switch off than tune into the sublime programming beneath 'Lifelike', 'Before The Wave' and 'Sleep Over Sleep'.

Satellite Stream is, of course, a record created well away from the major commercial, or even dancefloor, considerations that shaped the sound of its hit-making inspirations. As with the production pastiches of Daniel Lopatin and James Ferraro, its homage to electronic pop and soul is a prism through which to filter twenty-first century concerns. In Acquaintance's case, this includes the disconnection between the individual consciousness (the titles form a thread: 'Lifelike', 'Living Memory', 'Telepathic', 'Two Minds') and those around it when immersed in the electronic world, couched in the deceptive language of love and longing.

Although dryness is a danger Acquaintance don't always avoid, Satellite Stream rescues its pop credentials at the close with the uplifting melodies, simple synths and lovelorn chorus of 'Open Secret', pulled straight from the trophy cabinet marked Cupid And Psyche 85. It's a breezy close to an imperfect but frequently fascinating debut.