Album Review: Satellites’ self-titled debut – re-energising Anatolian rock and looking beyond…

The Breakdown

Following the vibrant electric route to keep those beats bouncing without losing the swooning melodies, prog flourishes or disco glitz of classic Anatolian Rock – a confident, pulsating debut.
Batov Records 8.6

When you enter the deified Anatolian Rock arena you’ve got to be sure you bring something new to the show, otherwise you’ll disappear under the weight of comparison with the past greats, from Mogollar to Koray to Karaca. In recent years Babu Zula have pumped the bass bins of dub and reggae into their spiralling saz psychedelia; Altin Gun have sprinkled on those synth lines and funky slides; and Gaye Su Akyol just strode in with pop inventiveness, pizazz and charisma to spare.

So when new band Satellites stepped out of their base in Haifa, Israel to come knocking on the genre’s door it could have gone one of two ways… but, with their bustlingly confident self-titled first album out on Batov Records, the signs are that this group have leapt over the threshold with their sights set on hanging around for a good while. Lead by Itamar Kluger who knows his way around a whole array of baglama or saz (those long necked Turkish guitars), the six piece have made a commitment to respect those inspirational Turkish folk and rock traditions without being weighed down by them. Satellite’s music follows the vibrant electric route, keeps those beats driven and bouncing but doesn’t shy away from swooping Moorish melodicism, time shifting prog or a slice of glitzy disco funk.

With all this activity some kind of sound-clash might seem inevitable but the highlights on this convincing debut come when the band dial up the invention. The enticingly titled ‘Seni Sen Oldugun Icin Sevdim’ is a prime evidence of Satellites in this risk-taking zone. Revolving around full pelt jazz rock driven by Kluger’s saz in soaring sustain mode, the mid-point plunge into a tingling psyche cavern before the riff’s re-emergence stands out as a bona fide ‘oh yeh’ moment. Then there’s their revitalising take on the traditional and much revered ‘Yagmur Yagar Tas Ustune’. As synths drone and Yuli Shafriri’s pure, crystalline vocals shine, Satellites settle into an atmospheric blend of Harvest era dark folk and shadowy alt rock for a re-imagining that ends with an epic swirl.

Dusting up established Anatolian rock-pop classics might seem an obligatory move that comes with the territory but the band approach the task with such gusto that the notion of routine cover version never enters the frame. Zafer Dilek’s sprightly jangle rocker ‘Yekte’ is given the full-on ‘turn it up’ treatment and revels in the distortion with Tsuf Mishali’s strident synths more than rising to the challenge. To revisit Kamuran Akkor’s glossy electro swinger ‘Olurmu Desin’ the band let Kluger’s skanking guitar chops and ridiculously faultless harmonies add the urgency while guest vocalist Vicki Ashkenazi maintains the original’s big ballad gravitas.

Elsewhere on the album Satellites merge interpretations and their own songs with an infectious enthusiasm that rarely misses a step. Instrumental opener ‘Big Baglama’ lays down the template with the twanging Dirwan saz pirouetting in front of a chunky disco rhythm and glam-pop bubblegum synth. ‘Yar Oi’ is similarly buoyant, bobbing along to the saz-synth banter and Shafriri’s pleading call/response vocal, while the stomping ‘Disco Arabesque’ will deserve every bouncing crowd it pulls. There are hints of things to come from Satellites in these tracks, the funky bass undertones and rippling percussive breaks, pointers maybe to Afro-Brazilian possibilities in their future music.

Closing song ‘Cecom’ similarly signposts other avenues that may unwind for the band. Breaking the mould of the album it’s a gentle swooning coda, a sensitive brush between Kluger’s soothing guitar picking and Shafriri’s airy, floating voice. Proof then that Satellites can take that moment, pause and beam down different messages whenever they want. Future communications from them are going to get even more interesting.

Get a copy of Satellites by Satellites from your local record store now or direct from:

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