Listening to burn burn satellite, I’m reminded of how much good, hyper-listenable new music is out there, waiting to be discovered. This is alternative, avant-rock at its best: melodic, rhythmically assured, with more textures than a “Pat the Bunny” book on acid.
“Flyweight” opens in Tom Waits territory, as plucked strings of unknown provenance (might be a gu-zhueng, which Darren Holt lists among his dozen or so instruments) bend the ear with unusual timbres, and electronic textures begin to creep in around the edges. But when the voices enter the middle section—in high, tight, lilting, three-part harmony—you’re somewhere else altogether. The lyrics taunt us with turns of phrase like a Chinese puzzle box:
we will do nothing
and do it so well
that it eats into all of the time
we do nothing with
The cleverness here is reminiscent of XTC’s run-on rhyme in “Mayor of Simpleton” (“and I don’t know how many pounds make up a ton of all the Nobel Prizes that I’ve never won”) or R.D. Laing’s play-on-logic poems (“I’ll never forgive you for not forgiving me”). But cleverness is next to boringness without some feeling in it, and burn burn satellite’s songs manage to communicate a lot of emotion. Once past the intro, the feel of “Flyweight” moves from the playful buoyancy you’ll sometimes find in Fleet Foxes or Sufjan Stevens, to the urgent angst of Seattle’s older influences.
It’s that grunge-y, Grohl-y, pounding surprise we get in the final section of the song. The voices, like Sirens seducing us to their little island, all but vanish as we hit the rock(s) suddenly revealed by crashing waves of sound. Yet the surprise feels inevitable, which is a sure sign of mastery. The intelligence of the music creates an expectation of thoughtful, civilized sentiment. Abruptly, the rug of quiet reason gets pulled out.
“Flyweight” hits harder than you expect. The impact is pure pleasure.