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Rascal Reporters - 2023 - "The Strainge Case of Steve"

(77:29; Cuneiform Records)


Rascal Reporters have had a somewhat unusual career in that they were formed in 1974 by multi-instrumentalists Steve Gore and Steve Kretzmer, with the latter taking a step back from composition after 1995’s ‘Purple Entrapment’ before taking a break from music altogether. Steve Gore continued working under the name, utilising guests such as Dave Newhouse (The Muffins) before Gore died in 2009. Kretzmer later decided to revisit old material with bassist and multi-instrumentalist James Strain, releasing the two ‘Redux’ albums in 2019 and 2021, and now the pair have shared writing and performing on the first album of new material since 2008’s ‘The Mind Boggles’. There are again a series of guests including long-time collaborator Dave Newhouse (The Muffins, Manna/Mirage) and Guy Segers (Univers Zero), along with Jessica Martin Maresco (Pili Coit, Le Grand Sbam) and Dario D'Allessando (Homunculus Res). With a career stretching nearly five decades, and with this being their eighth studio album, it is somewhat surprising this is the first time I have come across them, as what we have here is a band who are highly experimental and obviously start from an area of improvisation which is then reworked so melodies are repeated, harmonised etc. I am not sure how much time Kretzmer and Strain spent in the studio together, as this took six years to bring together and was recorded in their respective studios, but do not know if they travelled the Atlantic or worked in isolation. I do wish they had utilised the likes of Dave Newhouse (who guests on three of the sixteen) more, along with bringing in experts in the likes of clarinet and bassoon as the artificial versions being played by synths just sound a little off and it would have been much better to have the real thing. Once the ear connects into the heavy usage of synth it definitely detracts from the overall enjoyment of the album which is a shame, as here we have Canterbury Prog of some note, with obvious influences from Hatfield & The North, Caravan and Soft Machine. It is the more electronic tendencies and sounds which lets this down, so while it is enjoyable there is always the impression it could have been so much more. This is a long album at well over 70 minutes, but if that is not enough then it is possible to get a special edition with a second CD containing ‘Dux in a Row’ which features Kretzmer, Gore and Strain and is a compilation of previously released tracks which have been remixed and with new overdubs and additions, similar to the ‘Redux’ releases. In some ways this is well worth getting with nice complexity combined with commercial Canterbury sounds, but in others this is an opportunity missed.

Progtector: February 2024

Related Links:

Rascal Reporters Cuneiform Records


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