Stars and Satellites
The sixth studio release from the neo-bluegrass, indie-folk band Trampled by Turtles, Stars and Satellites, heralds a more introspective turn for the Minnesotan group. Where their previous album Palomino captured the excitement of the live experience, Stars and Satellites explores the lyrical soundscape of the morning after. Caught somewhere between night and day, Dave Simonett’s vocals weave their way through the densely pack strings of the band. However, the frenetic activity that Palomino managed to generate is not completely absent, with Dave Carroll on banjo and Ryan Young on fiddle still given opportunities to take command with fast-paced interplay.
The opening track Midnight on the Interstate signals the album’s direction, with Widower’s Heart following suit, offering the listener a more relaxed experience. One might not go so far as to describe Stars and Satellites as a concept album, but there is a discernible continuity to the tracks that was perhaps absent from their previous work.
‘From the start we knew that we didn’t want to go back to trying to recreate a live show with our new endeavour. We wanted to make a record that breathes,’ Simonett suggests. ‘We wanted it to feel and sound warm and more like one piece of work than several pieces put together.’
The story behind the recording of the album perhaps offers us an insight into this continuity. In the autumn of 2011 the five band members, along with sound engineer Tom Herbers, took off to a log cabin outside of Duluth in their home state of Minnesota. Close to Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes of America, one can almost hear the vast waters in the tranquility of tracks such as High Water. Living together during the recording in this way, one can feel the intimacy of the band as they explore hidden emotional vulnerabilities.
‘We moved the furniture, set up some mics, worked, slept and ate in all the same space. Musically, we wanted to step out of our comfort zone; the border of which, I believe, defines any creative endeavour.’
Stars and Satellites may not have the same raw impact as Palomino, where tracks such as Wait So Long exhibited the musicians on the attack; however, this new album is not a follow-up to the earlier work but a reinterpretation of their own corner of the genre. The inclusion of the choir on the album’s final track, The Calm and the Crying Wind, indicates a possible direction for the band, with more expansive tonal qualities complementing the already complex musical sound.
‘I like to think Stars and Satellites is the result of us continuing the search for our own voice and a step in the growth of a band that, at the very least, still loves to play together’.
W. J. Humphries