If there was ever a band you need to be in the mood for it is Satellites. Actually, they’re not really a band, but the project of Johnny Vic. As a one-man Arcade Fire, he writes and plays everything. But before imagining him on stage with cymbals between his knees and a drum on his back, it’s reliably heart-stirring stuff. Since his debut album 0.1 in 2012, his Google-resistant band name and elegant melodies have maintained the levels of secrecy international governments can only dream of. If you ever need reminding of the sheer emotional power of music then you’d be hard pushed to find better examples than his 2nd album (0.2) and his live set from Saint Saviour church.
0.2’s follow up 0.3 has been temporarily delayed by this Glitch, 0.4, written in response to the news of his mother having a stroke. The Saturdays this is not, more Now that’s what I call Catharsis.
Not only are Satellites a well-kept secret, with the promotional subtlety of Factory Records on a bank holiday, but secrets also pervade the songs. None more so than the brittle Faith & I – as he wonders who really clutches our hand during those darkest nights.
Immediate responses to life crises are understandable, and Vic spent hours on a piano at his mother’s house between hospital visits. Releasing an album so quickly in response to tragedy might invoke the wisdom of ‘Act in haste, and repent at leisure’, but the music’s honesty is as unnerving as you might expect. It’s more intimate than him singing on your lap. It’s predictably subdued, until the military tattoos of Square Wheels segue rather unlikely into what could be easily mistaken for the Chemical Brothers. It’s late coming, but is the up-draught this set needs to fly.
Just Pull Over maintains this momentum, over plaintive piano, it’s an ode to not knowing how to truly react to those phone calls we all dread; even the drums stutter uncertainly, as more electronics drift in. Unforgiven is a claustrophobic gasp, as it struggles to maintain a melody amongst the turmoil.
Like someone crying in a nightclub, this is an album that might get lost. It’s for solitary listening, and would fail to compete with even the dullest of dinner parties. It’s tense and torn, but there’s still hope, most notably on the defiant Photograph, which mines the loping grooves of the Beta Band.
It’s an unlikely opportunity to introduce synths to his sound, hopefully a nod to the still-to-be-released 0.3; but they complement his densely layered arrangements. Its lyrics are opaque, like the blurred image of the cover. 0.4 is a welcome gift, an album capturing the moment in a man’s life, which he has the generosity to share, so that perhaps we might feel empowered by the shocks that we all dread.