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City of Satellites

Machine Is My Animal

(Hidden Shoal; US: 1 Nov 2009; UK: 26 Jan 2010)

Rife with synthesizer tones and reverb trails that conjure a smothering, saccharine effect, everything on Machine Is My Animal was shot in soft focus. Dream pop act City of Satellites looks to 4AD or Creation for cues on how to engineer its sound, and while nods to the Cocteau Twins can and have been reverently carried-out by M83, Machine Is My Animal is little more than a reproduction. No snares on City’s first full-length album are without a strong dose of gated reverb, and no guitar seems to have been plugged directly into an amp head before passing through at least a chorus and flanger pedal. All of this attention to gloss hurts the duo’s palpable arrangement know-how. Lacking context, for example, “Skeletons” calls for hallucinatory video accompaniment (a dark beach, perhaps a unicorn)—its soft rock sheen echoes the overproduced artifice of early ‘90s Top 40 radio hits, rather than the pioneering LPs issued by indie imprints. Heavily treated vocals from South Australia’s Jarrod Manuel are weightless atop the album closer’s keyboard squiggles and long-disintegrating cymbals, where just above a whisper he asks “What did you see, Sky Rider?” More than likely, it was a set of songs that are a little too clean for their own good.

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Dominic Umile is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. His work has recently appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Chicago Reader, The Comics Journal, and more. Follow: @dominicumile | Email: dominic.umile@gmail.com | about.me/dominicumile


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