There’s no denying Boom Boom Satellites makes some of the hardest, freaked-out electronica anywhere.
Between stuttering backbeats, buzzing guitars and dissonant improvisation, the Japanese duo’s music is a distinct collage, uncomfortable as it is fascinating.
But with all that activity, sometimes hooks just can’t fit.
On the band’s debut album, Out Loud, a single-minded concentration on texture translated into a loss of momentum by the end of the disc.
Boom Boom Satellites made up for those errors with Umbra, an album that maintained the duo’s triple threat while making room for some melody.
With the band’s third album, Photon, the hooks are once again squeezed out but not completely.
Rather than let the backdrop be the star, Boom Boom Satellites invites spoken word vocalists and improvisers to provide some interesting foregrounds to their busy work.
“Light My Fire” is packed full of repeated motifs, special effects and even a guitar solo, but a female guest vocalist delivers some arresting lyrics in a breathy, seductive voice.
“I can make money by selling my organs,” she tells us, non-chalantly.
On “Beluga”, trumpeter Igarashi Issei provides layers of haunting improv, while Bryan Wrightsom fades in and out with a few couplets of his own. It’s not the most hummable improv, but it certainly keeps a listener’s attention.
There’s an almost fright-fest kind of feel throughout Photon, a sense of menacing behind the band’s fractured beats and guitar bursts.
At first, “Piper” sports little more than a creepy organ and a spoken word lyric that advises, “Get yourself some real help to wake up from the nightmare.” Then the drums kick in, and the mood turns manic.
And just when all the bizarre textures starts getting overripe, Boom Boom Satellites brings everything back down to earth with “Let It Lift” a straight-forward rock song with a rock beat and simple guitar hook. It’s the most normal-sounding song in the band’s entire catalog.
It would also make for a damn fine single.
Photon doesn’t quite match the appeal of Umbra, but it’s a definite progression for the band. They have their jazz-rock-electronica aesthetic down pat; now, it’s just a matter of finding collaborators to bring something new to the mix.