Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rogue Satellites - "We Are Apparitions"

photo credit: Liz Bedore

Detroit post-punk duo Rogue Satellites unveil their third album, Black Wings, next Friday. Lisa Poszywak and Jaye Allen Thomas are heading on tour the day after the release, hitting up Dayton, Columbus, Chicago and looping back around to Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids and more. Later on, on August 4, they celebrate at Deluxx Fluxx in Detroit with Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor and Minihorse.

Black Wings will be available on vinyl (Space Camp Records and cassette (Midwest Action), but you'll also find it on the usual digital platforms. Meanwhile, here's the brand new single, "We Are Apparitions."

When you think of birds with black wings they tend to put people on edge. Crows, Ravens...even Grackles..., they can put people on edge or just carry a general air of foreboding. Like these birds, the Rogue Satellites are not singing pretty songs, per se, but while the title track has some dystopic imagery of a deficit hope, there is still the ability to fly, to escape, to reach some higher branch or perhaps just break out of a cage.

Similar, in an albeit distant sense, to Nick Cave, Tom Waits, or PJ Harvey, the Rogue Satellites are not shying away from, nor sugarcoating, the darker sides. Their lyrics shine harsh lights on the unvarnished corners of humanity, but find vocal tones and transfixing melodic ribbons to sing these stark scenes to life. While those aforementioned songwriters might be closer to the realms of a dark folk or even goth-like trip, the Rogues are making a beautiful disassemblage of rock, with sparse flourishes from guitars and synthesizers, percussive arrangements that are like a tender industrial churn with a brooding post-punk march into the night. These are new-wave nocturnes that shine brightest (albeit like a fuzzy purple hued ultraviolet) when Poszywak and Thomas' vocal harmonies simmer and swell together through the choruses.

"Black Wings" can take us to the depths and make us see the barren trees, but there's a sense of rescue in those drums and those surfy psych-rock guitars in the opening phrase, suggesting a sort of propulsive getaway. If "Your Forest Arms" were tempoed just three-times faster, it'd be easy to call it a punk song, but there's something alluring about slowing it down to a toe-tapping sway; this is among many standout moments where the production allows each element, even that sleek and eerie synth curly it's melody at the refrain, to breathe and blossom. And then there's "War Dogs," which brings us to the edge of the abyss to greet the sense of dread that many of us feel after any runthrough of the headlines--with hypnotic drums recalling "Venus In Furs" but coated by a low but waltzing growl on the bass.

I was attracted to "We Are Apparitions" not merely because its title automatically sounds like a signature Rogue Satellites kinda song. But it's got one of the best drum hooks on the album, along with some surreal atmospheric touches that would bend the ear of any Radiohead fan. More than that, it's doing what the Rogues do best, designing a powerful melody weaving in aesthetic minor keys over a subtly cathartic punch of guitars over percolating bass and adorning synths. But it addresses the poison and division we're all troubled by and wondering what kind of effect that would have on those with more fragile constitutions--to where we might even be mutating into monsters, snakes, a swarm of bees....or worse, apparitions.

But you'll hear the whole of Black Wings soon. Whether the feathers are black, or if there's actual muck, mud or decay, it can't keep your wings from threshing, flapping, beating upward.... Hopefully--upward!!

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