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Line Out - The Stranger | Bella Musica from Italian Duo Satelliti by Kathy Fennessy

If I didn't already know that Satelliti hailed from Italy, I'm not sure I would've guessed it by their music. Their name certainly sounds Italian, but plenty of non-Italian acts, like Cibbo Matto, have Italian handles, so that wasn't much of a giveaway.


Furthermore, Andrea Polato and Marco Dalle Luche eschew vocals in favor of drums and keyboards, which brings the British duo RocketNumberNine to mind; except the two, who hail from Bolzano, have more of muscular prog-fusion thing going on (they also record for a UK label and use English-language song titles).* 

I mention all this because I don't know much about Italy's music scene, but the more I hear, the more I like, and yet Satelliti has little in common with the other acts who've captured my fancy, like His Electro Blue Voice and Franco Falsini(with or without Sensations' Fix), and few Italian artists appear in my music collection, with the exception of composers Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota. 

So, I can't say exactly where Polato and Luche fit into the grand scheme of things—they told John Doran of The Quietus that there isn't much of a scene in Bolzano—but their second full-length (after Im Magen des Kosmos) pulled me in right from the start. The entire thing plays as if they recorded it live to tape with no overdubs, which may not be the case, but I've always preferred that approach when it comes to jazz, fusion, and post-rock, such that the drumming appears to be coming from somewhere inside your head rather than from a series of woofers and tweeters and the other components that go into the making of a speaker.

* Coincidentally enough, both men lived in London at various times before forming the band.

Though Transister is an instrumental release, British singer Ed Laurie adds a few words to "Brother Green," which didn't take me out of the album, but it proves that Satelliti could go in a more commercial direction if they chose to do so. It works, but I prefer the in-your-face immediacy of the non-vocal tracks, which move more quickly and hit a lot harder (at times, they get downright metallic).

At their best, Satelliti offers a punk-rock variation on Miles Davis's sprawling 1960s ensembles—just subtract his beautifully bleary, smeary trumpet from the equation while retaining the power and grace of drummer Tony Williams and Rhodes master Herbie Hancock. It makes for an exhilarating experience, and I look forward to seeing where this duo goes next. As Doran put it in his Quietus profile, the record plays like "the cogs of magnificent gears slipping gloriously into place."