The New Year gets off to the best possible start with Satellite Young’s self-titled classic (2017), given a lick of paint and available on vinyl for the first time. Out on TimeSlave Recordings
The three distinct figures of BelleMaison Saikon, Emi Kusano and Tele Hideo stand in front of the modular wall at iconic Tokyo synth store Five G, evoking the retro techno-futurism of Yellow Magic Orchestra and combining it with a modern Idol sensibility. This is the record that proved Satellite Young to be a true triple threat, with their writing, performance and production on point throughout.
A majority of these tracks had been released as singles previously, yet this record never feels like a compilation thanks to its clever sequencing – tweaked here from its original order to suit the vinyl medium. After an intro theme song, we’re repeatedly taken to the precipice of ‘too much’, before being steered back with moments of stasis and real beauty.
It is a joy to listen to in full on vinyl and gaze at the updated artwork: a vivid cartoon iteration of the original image. The visual aesthetic confirms synthwave as a major ingredient in the mix, alongside J-Pop and 80s disco.
Synthwave luminary Mitch Murder appears here, lending parts and production to the pumping Outrun tune ‘Sniper Rouge’. Syncopated hits blast over a steady bass that eventually fades out into the sun. ‘Sanfransokyo Girl’ is vocal synthwave at its very best, with huge drums and an aching topline soaring over a classic four chord loop. The simplicity of this tune places it in stark contrast to some of the fancier arrangements and harmonic tricks elsewhere in tunes like closer ‘Don’t Graduate, Senpai!’. These flexes are executed with the panache of masters Yasutaka Nakata, or indeed Mitch Murder on Then Again.
‘Dividual Heart’ features rapid-fire vocal delivery, triplet hits, a shredding guitar solo and a key change. ‘Melancholy 2016’ takes things back to earth and its closing ritardando wraps up the first act.
The snappy MIDI-funk track ‘Break! Break! Tic! Tac!’ is a personal highlight, with its sampler-smashing vocal hook redolent of joyous Freestyle or Italo-Disco productions by Shep Pettibone, Arthur Baker or Jellybean in the early days of the extended remix. ‘Nonai Muchoo’, a collaboration with the producer brinq, has an anthemic disco chorus with echoes of ABBA’s ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’. There’s even room for an ‘Atomic’-style party rap, and another almighty key change/vocal descant to finish. Inject this into my veins.
Such flourishes show a band who know their music history, but are doing fresh things with a retro palette. They also exemplify a musical act who are confident of their talent, but unafraid to have fun.
Written by Thom Hosken