City of Satellites: Machine Is My Animal
Hidden Shoal

What elevates City of Satellites' dream pop above others' takes on the style is the urgency driving the nine songs on Machine Is My Animal, the group's follow-up to its debut EP The Spook. Though the group includes only two members, Adelaide resident Jarrod Manuel (vocals, guitars, synthesizers) and Sydney-based Thomas Diakomichalis (drums, synthesizers, programming), Machine Is My Animal nevertheless comes off sounding like songs played by a live band (much of that attributable to Diakomichalis's powerful drumming, which features prominently in the mix). That's especially more impressive, considering that, being geographically dispersed, the pair assembled the album's songs by mailing back and forth the recorded works-in-progress until they reached completion.

An Eastern-styled synth motif boosts the impact of opener “BMX” before “Control” similarly riffs on the group's seductive template by alchemizing Manuel's breathy vocals, radiant synth motifs, and rambunctious drumming into a transporting four minutes. “Skeletons” rises and falls like an epic New Wave ballad, and “Stranger Than Fiction” catches you unawares by digging its hooks into you while you're seduced by the song's dizzying synth swirl, the vocal purr, and the crisp snap of the drum groove—a veritable Platonic ideal of dream pop in no more than three minutes and eight seconds. The vocals add so much to the music's allure—never more so than during the entrancing outro “Sky Rider”—that an instrumental like “Willje Sleep” proves less memorable for excluding them. Listening to the album, it quickly becomes clear that shoegaze is an obvious wellspring for the group, but one also hears traces of both ‘80s synth-pop (OMD, for example) and New Wave in City of Satellites' pristine, analogue sound.

March 2010