Serpentina Satélite, Mecanica Celeste: Now Leaving the Stratosphere

With their last record, Nothing to Say, Peruvian psych heads Serpentina Satélite blended deep space with heady riff-led jams, coming out of it sounding neither formulaic nor offensively derivative. On the follow-up, Mecanica Celeste (Rocket Recordings) — their third record overall — the four-piece push even further into the reaches of Hawkwindian psychedelia, staying off the ground almost entirely for 43 minutes of freewheeling exploration, relying on structure about as much as the average amoeba. If they said some of this stuff was made up on the spot after pressing record, I’d believe it, though the clarity in the production leads me to assume otherwise.

Mecanica Celeste finds Serpentina Satélite expanding their repertoire some. The two guitars of Renato Gómez and Dolmo lead the way with moaning solos and almost ceaseless effects. On nine-minute opener “Fobos,” the album gets a subtle start that pans into brighter territory with the one-two hit of “Sangre de Grado” and the title track, which bleed right into each other. Vocals, provided by bassist Félix Dextre, are sparse, but come on heavy with delay on “Sangre de Grado,” drummer Aldo Castillejos providing suitable freakout behind and sounding like he’s having a lot of fun doing it. Centerpiece track “Imaginez Quel Bonheur ce Sera de Voir Nos Chers Disparus Ressuscités!” is something of a ritualistic interlude, its title translating from the French to say, “Imagine What Joy This Will Be to See Our Departed Loved Ones Resurrected.” The atmosphere created is expectedly spooky.

“Ai Apaec” is a suitable cut to follow, a somewhat moodier opening to the meat of side B, but still very much based on the flowing jam structure. Toward the end of the song, Serpentina Satélite fade out to just amp noise, which acts as even more of a comedown leading into the chanted opening of “Sendero,” which, at 9:29, is the longest song on Mecanica Celeste. It’s also the most grounded; Castillejos taking the lead with a military cadence to his snare that Gómez, Dolmo and Dextre follow loosely. Of course, the plot finds its twist about halfway through, when the band goes into an omega-freakout, the heavy snare still present while the swooping effects soar overhead in echoes and reverbed psych-osis. “Sendero” is probably the most memorable of the cuts on Mecanica Celeste, but it’s not like Serpentina Satélite are trying to write the perfect pop song, either on it or any of the rest of the album. Verses, choruses — hell, for the most part, even vocals — need not apply. Theirs is a different mission entirely.

Another noisy finish and a few seconds of quiet bring on the untitled closing track, more chanting — I’m all but completely ignorant of the Spanish language, but I can pick up “muerte” and “resucitó” well enough — and the ceremonious conclusion of Mecanica Celeste. In comparing it to Nothing to Say, Serpentina Satélite’s latest is somewhat darker and more musically ethereal, but especially the back half starting with “Imaginez Quel Bonheur ce Sera de Voir Nos Chers Disparus Ressuscités!” feels more thought out as well. There is no shortage of Hawkwind/Ash Ra Tempel-inspired psychedelia out these days, and granted, Mecanica Celeste probably won’t change the face of space or psych rock, but for fans of the style, Serpentina Satélite’s take on it will more likely please than bore. Their live, spontaneous feel and effective jamming make them well worth a look for anyone tired of gravity’s pull.

Serpentina Satélite on MySpace

Rocket Recordings

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3 Responses to “Serpentina Satélite, Mecanica Celeste: Now Leaving the Stratosphere”

  1. UKGuy says:

    Just had an idea: any chance of a “where to start: South America”? You tipped me off to Los Natas and I wonder how many other gems I might be missing. Cheers either way.

  2. […] reading: The Obelisk » Blog Archive » Serpentina Satélite, Mecanica Celeste: Now Leaving the Stratosphere. (Special thanks to JJ Koczan for the very kind […]

  3. […] reading: The Obelisk » Blog Archive » Serpentina Satélite, Mecanica Celeste: Now Leaving the Stratosphere. (Special thanks to JJ Koczan for the very kind […]

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