The differences between two versions of Satellite Heart's "Bob De Niro" are compositionally minor, but the new recording transforms the song.

On the 2012 compilation Hello Quad Cities Volume 1, the track was a catchy chug, but it also felt lumbering and unwieldy, with the insistently crashing cymbals exemplifying an overall coarseness.

On the indie-rock band's new EP, Between Phases, the track is, in all its component parts, pretty much the same - but it's been compressed and polished, and the effect is like coal becoming a diamond. It's just 10 seconds shorter, but the quicker tempo and other changes breathe such life into the track that it feels like it's performed at double speed.

The dynamic range has been flattened significantly, but the sloppy explosiveness lost in the Between Phases track is replaced by additions and refinement: a new buzz-guitar bit, more-precise harmonies given greater emphasis, the on-beat stuttering vocal on the word "my" in "my mistake."

The changes, said guitarist/singer Andy Smith, can be attributed to the earlier version being a quick take on a freshly written song, while the new one reflects comfort with the material and several years spent recording, mixing, and tweaking Between Phases. The Hello Quad Cities "Bob De Niro," he said, "wasn't the same level of detail, the same level of production." The core tracks for the EP were put down in the summer of 2013, he added, but the band members' work schedules meant that "it got mixed over a very long period of time."

The time was well-spent. The new record still rocks plenty hard, but there's an agile tightness that the quartet's 2012 album Become the New only hinted at. Smith said the goal with each track was to capture the best version of each song, and that care is evident throughout Between Phases.

In many ways, the EP is a study of highlighting contrasts. That's most obvious on on "Cut It Out" in the way guitarist Jacob Ruefer's scorched vocals play off the delicately precise lead guitar, which itself is placed next to passages with the dull thuds of drums and rhythm guitar joining Ruefer's singing.

Lead track "Wooden Soldier" is the band in microcosm, with several layers of soft-loud-soft call-and-response dynamics. There's a structural complexity here - the chorus is two-tiered, with distorted guitar and joyous backing vocals kicking up the intensity in the second part - but it's the sort of musical density that's casually disguised by the song's undeniable hooks.

Yet while "Wooden Soldier," "Cut It Out," and "Bob De Niro" represent the core sound of Satellite Heart, the seven songs on Become the New demonstrate a compelling breadth. The bass and razor-thin rhythm guitars of "Blood Red" lend the song a metallic menace, while "Home" has a rootsy warmth. Smith said the band has difficulty describing what it sounds like, because it changes from track to track. "It's a good song," he said of the process of choosing material. "That's all we really care about."

On "Animal Man," Ruefer's vocals work hard at heartfelt, and he needs the remainder of the band to pull it off: The guitars, Tyler Willhite's bass, and Tyler Drayton's drums are each busy and pregnant, deftly fleshing out a complicated emotional portrait.

Already brief and with its title suggesting transition, Between Phases closes with 87 seconds of "In the City," which is a fantastically simple, bass-heavy, poppy Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque tease. Ruefer's singing is spot-on Anthony Kiedis - sweet, sincere, and stripped of its rough edges - and the song's voice is distinctive enough that it feels anything but derivative. When it and the EP end abruptly with "Now we must go / 'Cause this song is over," there's only one reasonable reaction: Come back soon.

Satellite Heart will perform a record-release show for Between Phases on Saturday, October 10, at RIBCO (1815 Second Avenue, Rock Island; The show starts at 9 p.m. and also features Waking Robots and Speaking of Secrets. Cover is $5.

For more information on Satellite Heart, visit

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