City of Satellites – Machine Is My Animal

City of Satellites - Machine Is My Animal

Hidden Shoal Recordings has been called “this generation’s 4AD” for good reason. Referring of course to the eclectic and cutting edge label of the early 80’s (it’s current resurgence not withstanding). With music as the top priority, both labels are not afraid to experiment, and aspire to bring exposure to unique and talented bands while providing an alternative source for the independent-minded music fan to discover new music. Eschewing the rock mainstream, and possibly commercial success, they put the music first, resulting in a splendid and varied assortment of distinguished records. Machine is My Animal, the debut LP from Australian duo City of Satellites, is no exception.

With celestial ties not only in name but also musically, the band use sunbursting synth lines and wispy, sonic swirls of spangly guitars to conjure pleasant memories of the Cocteau Twins’ surreal mix of shoegaze, synth-pop and dream-pop. Only the tracks here are slowed by a cosmological red-shift, as if the Cocteaus recorded an album after ingesting twice the recommended dosage of codeine-laced cough syrup and topped it off with a glass of Chardonnay.

The extended compositions take their time in captivating the listener as they develop tunefully with tranquil melodies as soft percussion echoes through the cavernous spaces allowed by the transcendent backdrop of glimmering keyboards. The soft and soothing vocals are feminine and angelic, even though provided by male singer Jarrod Manuel. It can be somewhat of a put-off at first, but unless you’re as uptight and moronic as Jerry Seinfeld or George Costanza, you’ll get over it quickly and realize the dreamy vocals are the perfect compliment to the music.

On first listen, the 9 tracks play like one long trip through a colorful cosmic cloud with a dreamy, mysterious flow and a lush underbelly of celestial sounds. But over time, the songs distinguish themselves with swirling layers of enveloping orchestral harmonies and shooting stars of guitar bursts and cymbal crashes that add brilliant flairs of vaporous and heavenly ambience. It takes time to absorb all of Machine Is My Animal’s cinematic scope and unfamiliar radiance, but if played in the right mood and setting will provide countless hours of sonic pleasure.

Recommended If You Like (RIYL): Cocteau Twins, Ulrich Schnauss, and This Mortal Coil

Hidden Shoal Recordings