The Space Age Travelers

Satellite Shuffle

Though their name tosses them into the surf/space pond, this instrumental trio defies pigeonholing. It’s an eclectic set – no wonder, considering guitarist/composer/producer B.J. Baartmans’ influences; he lists a few as Cliff Gallup, Julian Lage, Hank Marvin, Bill Frisell, Charles Mingus, Blake Mills, and Nels Cline.

Formed in Holland in 2018, this is a step up from their previous work. Baartmans displays ample technique but always with taste, and it’s his songwriting that lifts the proceedings; perhaps his other hat as singer/songwriter helps. Jazz sensibility is something almost devoid among the surf crowd, but B.J. handles it well, particularly on “Miles Inbetween,” yet elsewhere, country slips in.

In addition to the usual Fender-types, a Gretsch Firebird, and Greco 175, he broadens the palette by adding mandolin, 12-string, banjo, and electric sitar. Slide crops up on “Monk’s Mood” – an original inspired by but not to be confused with the Thelonious Monk tune. The swinging “Charlie’s Pickup” begins with a fake low-fi recording before the trio kicks in for catchy fun.

In the broader category of instrumental guitar albums, this is one of the best to come along in a good while.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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