Long-running German duo Strafe F.R. has been at it since way back in ’79 and The Bird Was Stolen is their first recording on Touch since four releases between the 80’s and early 90’s. Next week (5/24) Bernd Kastner and Siegfried Michail Syniuga unveil this new album in an edition of 500 on CD (and Digital) with fourteen tracks, and a running time of just over an hour. As Jovian Tempest opens we enter a bit of a sacred and mysterious space. What sounds like radio channeling pairs well with other frequencies and effects. It’s definitely in a gray area and I recommend that you may want to listen in the dark. Indistinguishable field recordings of moving elements are embedded with exquisite corpse harmonies on Prepper’s Home where rhythmic percussion rises into the mix. It’s warming and pent up until a remodeled voice emerges on Aconite accompanied by charged guitar and fiery electronics. This, their tenth release is a clear return and elusive departure to peak form and/or formlessness.
The album delves into areas of balmy funk and post-rock, all the while erasing any evidence of genre identification. Then comes Caterina De Re who assists with random vocalese on Anophelis and elsewhere. Her voice is a lighter version that reads like a combo of titans Lydia Lunch and Nina Hagen. The under-the-radar, yet playful experimentation on The Bird Was Stolen has a passing tin echo like a bell tolling in various places. Instead of opting for a constant tone drone, the two fabricate shorter puzzle pieces like a classic film director shaping a plot between Cap de Barbaria and Pianosmoke. So many twists and turns here, even a alien siren call evoking Close Encounters of the Third Kind (yes, Spielberg) on the quirky track Flare. It’s warm and fluid, it’s awkward and expressive. As spelled out Strafe Für Rebellion share about their process in a bit of stream of consciousness:
“When searching for new sounds inside the bowels of a piano we occasionally found the sleeping Franz Liszt. Underneath the piano pedal, an MC5 sticker was glued to it. Unfortunately the mites have eaten all of our socially and critically-engaged texts.”
In this light the tracks assign a sense of timeless references that act as both incidental music, and complete vignettes. They are in the lab concocting a better beast and delivering a formula like nothing out there right now. Dictator is just a jaw-dropping melange, a transection of Coil, People Like Us and early Ministry without any overt pop spirit whatsoever. Take a copter beat and walk the aisles to old-school Woolworth’s background muzak, add some intermittent cartoonisms and you have Himmelgeist. They saved a bit of psychedelia for the very end in the form of a trippy guitar laden Towton. Stripping down rock n’ roll to its barest and blend with male and female vocals, contorted synths run on fumes, and there you have it. This is one of those records that traverses a lot of territory without taking stock in one camp or another, modern gypsy music with a spiritual-fluid byline.