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Yesterday's Machine

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Album Review

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.

Biography

Formed: 2009 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Saturn Never Sleeps formed in 2009 for improvisational performances dedicated to jazz giant Sun Ra. A collaboration between Afro-futurist Philadelphians King Britt (production) and Rucyl Mills (vocals, electronics; formerly of the Goats), Saturn Never Sleeps rapidly developed over the course of the following two years. They established the SNS label, played festivals around the globe, and refined their sound — a mix of left-of-center R&B with experimental electronic music. The first SNS...
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Yesterday's Machine, Saturn Never Sleeps
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