SATELLITE TRAGEDY: New Beautiful
2008/ Popup Records
11 tracks / 39:17 minutes
I have had the pleasure of interviewing Ridd Sorensen of Satellite Tragedy for the MacJams Blog. Please see Ridd Sorensen: Drawing On The Moment. We discuss the album during the interview, along with a bunch of other personal and career stuff. Please check it out.
Satellite Tragedy is comprised of two members, Ridd Sorensen (vocals, guitars, synths) and Scott Davies (percussion, guitars, synths) of Vancouver, Canada. Davies produced the album himself. It is top notch, from the thought-through writing to the excellent performances to the detailed, immaculate production.
From the outset, this album has a conceptual feel. The opening track walks a tightrope between prologue and tone poem, setting a mood that comes out of an electronic fog, like a kind of birth from the jaws of the Twilight Zone. Some have called it ominous, but I had a distinctively optimistic, upbeat sense, even though I knew whatever that previous life had been (for, if this was birth, it came out of something already survived), it experienced wounding disappointment and uncertainty.
The prologue flows right into an alternative pop riff with post-melancholy vocals. But “In My Head Again” is no ordinary pop rock tune. It continues to grow, completing the birth into the alternative reality New Beautiful paints. Fabulous arranging.
When the third track begins, you know you are into the album with both feet. “Ethanol” starts with a mainstream punk pop feel, a repeated hook and simple guitar that drives harder and harder into the depths of explosive desires, true to its name. By the end, it transcends by burning itself in its own fire, as the guitar solo tears the entire track apart. Again, fabulous arranging.
As if landing on his knees aside a smoldering junk yard, Ridd begins “Inside Your Skin” (see below) sifting through rattled-effect laden rhythms with hushed vocals. But when he lifts his chin off his chest, throws his head back and begins to wail, his clear voice cuts through the distortion like lightning, illuminating a new clarity. Conscience trying desperately to be heard. By this time in the album, I’m beginning to think Ridd and Scott are the new genius rock duo come to save music.
Then the anthem-like “Gone” fills the room and I am further stunned. Ridd’s vocals in its upper register are so good, I think this is the perfect style for him. He has found his inner power. The saturated wall of sound that encircles him in the song’s loudest moments cannot drown him out. He soars.
As if to prove me wrong (about rock anthems being Ridd’s perfect style), “Out of my Mind” interrupts: a short, grungy, riotous interlude. It slaps me out of my certainties. I realize the character he is developing has deeper issues of obsession and despair then I had first imagined. The song proves to be the hinge moment; the album turns from expressionist brilliance to contemplation.
The screams turn into exhaustion. “Tonight” (written by Michael Marquesen) floats between a sense of giving up and a need to start over, even if it means a kind of internal suicide. It is a mood piece that flows magically out of the New Beautiful conceptual framework, and also gives the listener a chance to catch his/her breath. Neither this track nor the next 3 rises to the level of greatness that the first half of the album achieved, but only a crazy reviewer would expect such a thing. Lots of good things to say about the ebb and flow achieved in these four tracks; the album surges onward in competent energy, bringing several moments that pique and surprise, sooth and stroke. Then the final track appears.
After a fairly long intro, “Goodbye” returns to the mainstream anthem sound I loved so much in track 5. Through the balanced banter of layered rhythmic guitar, pulsating bass, and interwoven synth sounds, Ridd’s strong vocals pierces with a renewed strength. The twisting, spinning sense of distortion and electronica that has served to add spice to nearly every track (reminding us of internal pains and difficult memories), the residue of pain tries to force itself into a new focus, but cannot. Ridd’s vocals are too true. His character has learned enough to start again. The goodbye becomes a creed of self-belief. He has found a new compass, a new sonar. Again, fabulous arranging.
This is a great album. I highly recommend it.
For more information and samples of their music, check out the links below: Satellite Tragedy.
1. New Beautiful
2. In My Head Again
4. Inside Your Skin
6. Out Of My Head