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Peanut Brittle Satellite - Planet Girth
by Cory Perla
Peanut Brittle Satellite
Listening to Buffalo prog-rockers Peanut Brittle Satellite is like getting a history lesson in the last 30 years of experimental rock. Think King Crimson plastered together with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Mars Volta. The six-piece (guitarist Zack Mikida, bassist Ian Machniak, Zach Kushner on keyboards, drummers Shawn Brandel and Ryan Campbell, and Evan “Karl” Courtin on the violin and glockenspiel) have achieved their dynamic math-prog sound in the four short years since they formed in a basement in Buffalo in 2007. On their latest album, Planet Girth, the band incorporates an almost storybook writing style, using guitars and drum rhythms rather than lyrics to tell their tale.
That story begins with “Anisotropic Axon Re-Electroplation, Mvt 1,” the title of which implies the complexity of the music. The song starts with a few seconds of swirling guitar notes before taking off into an atmospheric measure of electronic growls and violin chord bursts, bouncing from punk rock drum rhythms to tight uptempo jazz structures, and finally resolving with a mysterious Pink Floydian breakdown. Borrowing its strange disjointed guitar riff from guitarists like Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, “Crusin’” sets the stage for the album’s highlight, “Billie’s Blue Bodega,” which erupts with a sprawling bass line and shimmering, fast-paced, syncopated drums. The dueling drums are at the center of the mix, so that a good pair of headphones offers you the perspective of the drummer, with tom hits and cymbal crashes coming from either side and bongos tapping directly in front. “Bodega” is PBS in their most enveloping state, liquefying into a Do Make Say Think-like clicking guitar solo before morphing into a heavy jazz-bossa nova fusion jam. “Fierce Chemchok Heruka and the Between Deities,” the centerpiece of the album and the record’s climax, spills out with sinister sounding battling guitars before bursting into a victorious piano led movement that eventually dwindles down to a sparkling xylophone solo. The aptly titled “Fear” brings the listener into a jarring 7/8 time signature, breaking down for only a moment into a bell-toned melody before moving into frantic fiddling and scratchy palm muted guitar riffs. The album’s finale, “Anisotropic Axon Re-Electroplation, Mvt. 3” is an altered reprise of the opening track with quick choppy guitar picking and double bass kicks buried in the mix.
Each song on Planet Girth builds upon three or four distinct movements that rarely revisit prior movements, making for unpredictable, cinematic tracks. Though the album is just seven tracks, it clocks in at around 43 minutes. At its most intense, the album is a fierce and epic tale, at its tamest a mellow jazz-rock fusion that often melts down to only splashing percussion and spiraling guitar. If you’re looking for a progressive rock rollercoaster ride, you’ll find it on Planet Girth.
Peanut Brittle Satellite will show off their new tunes at their CD release show at Nietzsche’s on Friday, April 29, with support from Philadelphia’s Infinien and Buffalo thrash-pop band Wooden Waves. The show starts at 9pm with a $6 cover.
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