Saturn Never Sleeps

Yesterday's Machine

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Yesterday's Machine Review

by Andy Kellman

Formed in 2009 for improvisational performances dedicated to Sun Ra, Saturn Never Sleeps rapidly became one of the most substantial projects from veteran musicians/producers Rucyl and King Britt. A diverse list of peers could be checked off, including Little Dragon, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Kissey Asplund, Sa-Ra, and even Sade. They cite not just Sun Ra, but fellow electronic music pioneers Delia Derbyshire and Herbie Hancock, as inspirations. The scope could be widened in a speculative sense to include the spacious alien pop of Japan’s Tin Drum, the whimsical interludes that dot a handful of Rotary Connection albums, and the experimental electronic music released on labels like Raster-Noton and Mego. Yesterday's Machine offers avant R&B that is soft-focus and subdued. Rucyl’s voice, sweetly nuanced and sometimes slightly pained, never eclipses lullaby volume level and is cradled with a stimulating array of abstract sounds. “Tory” is one of only two songs with a steady kick drum, yet it’s easy to get lost in its web of bounding synthetic bass, handclaps, ricocheting percussion accents, and soft keyboard interjections, as well as Rucyl herself -- is the repeated “Are you gonna show me what to do?” a come-on, a dare, or a facetious jab? “The Machines Are the Stars” is a gorgeous ambient slow jam for science nerds, where gently knocking drums, gossamer-like guitar, and clipped gasps are all that’s necessary: “Black holes don’t explain, and neither do we/Can’t explain the energy of true love.” Most stunning is the album’s closer, “Take It Out,” where Rucyl pleads for her lover to open up -- “Take it out on me” is sung like a resignation, as if her mind has kept her up all night -- over a sullen post-punk groove that evokes early Cure as produced by Italo disco duo Klein + M.B.O.

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