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Satellite Beach – The Haunted Sea

Satellite Beach - The Haunted Sea

EP, Record Camp, 2004

This record has been sitting on my desk for months awaiting review, and I’d like to take the unusual step of offering a personal apology to the artist, New Yorker John Reading, for neglecting this heady mix of filmic ambience, hypnotic keyboards, unfussy beats and lush orchestration for so long. Having said that — and this is no excuse for tardiness, mind — I’m glad I only got round to listening to it now that London has been gripped by a sudden heatwave. The summery imagery (the beach, the sea, the section of fairground rollercoaster on the cover, the project’s namesake town on the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral) would have seemed irritatingly incongruous during an overcast English March.
Was it founded or at least renamed in honour of NASA moving in? Or was the name a strange coincidence, unwittingly anticipating the gleaming metallic launch platforms that were to spring up just along the highway? We may never know. But every so often, Reading’s unashamedly dreamy grooves reach, so to speak, Orbital velocity, and it seems like a circle completing itself. There’s a sublime sense here too of soundtracks for films that will never be made, a la Artridge, but with more of an otherworldliness bestowed by snatches of chirruping electronics and, here and there, a glossy electro sheen. Perhaps this is where Future Sound of London go for their holidays.
Reading is not one to stay in geostationary orbit; each of these six pieces evolves over time, ranging over sweeping musical vistas with peaks and valleys placed carefully to catch the listener out. Suddenly there’s an electric piano from nowhere, or a return to a long-lost theme that you would have sworn was in the previous song. And the ends of the tracks are often as abrupt as the intros are long and brooding. I’ve listened to this record about three times today, and it grows on me each time; compared to the unexpected heat and the sweat of the city, it’s like a sea breeze.


— Andrew Clegg

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