credit: Ken Freeman
The genesis of A Shedding Snake can be traced back to the solo ventures of Cara Beth Satalino in the mid to late 2000s while she attended SUNY Purchase. Satalino’s somber, solitary songwriter aesthetic was later informed by her tenure playing in the Athens, GA based rough-around-the-edges power trio Witches until they disbanded in 2012. Following the break up, Satalino’s focus was directed back toward her solo material, and what would become Outer Spaces. Relocating to the artistically fertile city of Baltimore, Satalino formed a solid lineup for the group, including fellow Purchase College alums Chester Gwazda – who had previously produced Satalino’s solo recordings, as well as albums by Future Islands, Cloud Nothings and Dan Deacon – and Rob Dowler of the bands Tides and Nuclear Power Pants. The band had the opportunity to participate in the Matador Records Singles Going Home Alone 7” series, and released the Garbage Beach EP via Salinas Records in 2014.
A Shedding Snake is Outer Space’s debut full-length effort. The album is one of transition for Satalino. Some of the material was composed back when she lived in Athens and, stylistically, it shows: there’s some definite Murmur-era Michael Stipe and Peter Buck influence in aesthetic and songwriting. But Satalino bridges the gap from what’s in her rear-view to her present. “Moving to a new place is a chance for a clean slate in a way, and I think that the songs on this record reflect that feeling,” she says. “It's a record about moving on, moving past, moving forward, and moving toward.”
The production, helmed by multi-instrumentalist Gwazda, is crisp and lush, opening up for big, melody driven choruses book-ended by sometimes dark and dirgy verses. But what shines through strongest is Satalino’s songwriting. If you were to transpose these songs down to the barebones acoustic guitar and voice resonating in the Purchase dorms in 2006, they would be just as strong. The added elements and arrangements of the album serve to elevate and emphasize that strength in composition, whereas most other modern vibe-heavy indie rock can often get in the way of itself.
Like a snake sheds its skin to grow and move forward, so has Satalino as a songwriter and performer. By taking the dynamic experiences she’s had musically, and teaming with versatile and capable collaborators, Satalino has hit a stride in arranging. This is displayed clearly in her ability to dip in and out of loud guitar rock, and lonely voiced space-creating moments. After being teased by various EP and single releases that have only hinted at Satalino and co.’s ability, the momentum of A Shedding Snake embodies the strong forward movement that Outer Spaces is capable of.