[sic] Magazine

City Of Satellites – Machine Is My Animal

“Space invaders
Are on my mind”

The opening words of ‘BMX’ are almost breathed rather than sung. You’ll forgive me for having to already check my facts even at this earliest of junctures. Can that light, soft coo really belong to a man? It does. His name is Jarrod Manuel and his intonations are more than a little disbalancing. Manuel could make many female artists sound masculine. The male falsetto has been de rigueur since Jeff Buckley’s astonishing Grace but this is more than mere high pitch. This is post-feminine.

This surely comes from another planet?

Hidden Shoal is probably the most aptly named label around. For theirs is a semi-secret caché of luxuriant, modern recording artistes. The latest wonder is Australian electro-dream-pop duo City Of Satellites. Okay, I’ll admit ‘Australian’ does not quite equate to ‘extra-terrestrial’. (Icelanders leave me far more uncertain) but I have always rather enjoyed Australian music. What seems at first glance to be wholesome, boy-next-door fare can often have a delicious kink to it. This record has an altogether different kind of duality. When listening to Machine, all manner of memories come flooding back regarding the synth-pop bands of the early 80’s. We can even name and shame. OMD, The Eurythmics and Erasure are all clear reference points. Why then am I left unsatisfied? (by this line of critique, not the music)

If we’re being honest, City Of Satellites really don’t sound the same as any of those bands. Sure, there is a vibe to the music (‘Stranger than fiction’ could be a Mac-Air descendent of Sweet Dreams). Add to this the vaguely ‘retro-futuristic’ material and put together it does recall Top Of The Pops circa 1982. But this is a 2010 construct. This is the 21st Century – ten years in. Except City Of Satellites don’t inhabit our today. They inhabit the 21st Century we foresaw back in the past – all robotics, ray-guns and flying machines. The Tomorrows World of our youth.

Or maybe there are parallel universes? Maybe somewhere, in an alternate reality, Vince Clarke left Depeche Mode by falling through a wormhole into a Sky Captain meets Farscape Universe and formed Yazoo with the alien creature he met there. I am acutely aware at this point that you, dear reader, might expect and deserve something a bit more professional from me/us. I would therefore respectfully refer you away from here. You will find everything this review piece lacks, made up for in abundance on Machine Is My Animal – an imaginative, innocent, drifting album. Yes there are Sci Fi touches but let us not overplay this. The music is far from alien. Quite the contrary. Although this album reveals its extremities and conceals its heart, I’d liken it to a perfect nights sleep. That is to say, you remember the beginning and the end with some clarity but the part in-between is a gossamer dream. Seconds after it ends, its secrets fade into the memory. Somehow, this makes it as comforting as homemade lemonade in a summers garden.