Exactly as it happens with their bizarre and unpredictable output, several mental doors opened up when I saw that Strafe F.R. had released a new album following an extended hiatus. First came the recollection of a long-distance interview that we had carried out (via snail mail!) during my early days as a music writer, this reviewer’s half 90s rants limited to the restricted audience of an Italian quarterly. Then, the realization that nothing has changed: in fact, the same impossibility of classifying the astonishing upshots of Bernd Kastner and S. M. Syniuga’s studio wizardry accompanied the inaugural spins of The Bird Was Stolen. All of the above turned into a classic “OK, let’s go to work for real” type of approach, which is the only requirement for a decent comprehension of the duo’s universe.
The name may translate as “punishment for rebellion”, yet Strafe’s electroacoustic visions are never really “punishing” for a listener. Rebellious, maybe – but in a subtly enticing way. The incredible diversity of situations presented in these fourteen tracks is balanced by perfect dosages of compositional seriousness and somewhat sinister humor. Standing still in one or few places is unfeasible for Kastner and Syniuga; they definitely prefer fleeting hints, occasionally synthesizing vivid details and tactile timbres in a single minute’s capsule. Stylistic crystals are thoroughly shattered in about ten seconds: lunatic songs chained to odd-metered sequences, alien reverberations enhanced by awkward superimpositions of feedbacking melodies, “traditional” instruments alternated with sources of unidentified origin, filtered voices uttering incomprehensible messages. You can even try and memorize short snippets of what is heard; however, that memorization will last until the next instant.
Should someone see a similarity with today’s typical lack of logical strength and gradually shortening attention spans, that someone is completely missing the point. This set appears to be grounded on fragments of a deeper knowledge, both technical and congenital. And when one wishes to repeat the trip right after it’s finished, that’s the unmistakable sign of being in the face of artistic intelligence. Therefore it’s not a “welcome back” but a “thanks for welcoming us back”. In the hope that, this time, Strafe F.R. are here to stay.