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Rascal Reporters — The Strainge Case of Steve
(Cuneiform Rune 3367, 2023, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-07-27

The Strainge Case of Steve Cover art

Any band that’s been around as long as Rascal Reporters is bound to have some twists in their story. From its beginning, the group has been a duo with guests, originally with Steve Gore and Steve Kretzmer, and their music was complex (some would say overly or ridiculously so) and stylistically diverse. Their M.O. was generally to each record their own compositions, sometimes without contributions from the other, making it a group in name only. Gore’s death in 2009 is the big twist in the story, but Kretzmer found the perfect musical companion in Irish musician James Strain, who first appeared on Redux, Vol. 1 helping to complete tracks left behind in Gore’s archives. On The Strainge Case of Steve, Strain steps into a role similar to Gore’s, contributing his own compositions and filling in some parts on Kretzmer’s. The amazing compatibility of the two is evident in the fact that it’s near impossible to determine who wrote what without referring to the credits. Long-time guests Guy Segers (bass) and Dave Newhouse (horns, woodwinds) appear on a few tracks, as do Dario D’Allessandro (guitar, synths), Kimara Sajn (bass), Penelope Lovelace (vocals), and Jessica Martin Maresco (vocals). Stylistically, the album is very much in the same vein as previous releases, with oddly titled tracks full of complex arrangements and abrupt shifts in mood, a little reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s Jazz from Hell, only performed by musicians instead of computer — the rhythmic difficulty is somewhat less with Rascals than Zappa, but is still far above what most groups attempt. There’s also a thread of Canterbury flavor to the pieces that occasionally surfaces. While the music is quite technically difficult, The Strainge Case of Steve sounds friendlier to me (or maybe I’m just getting used to their sound). For anyone familiar with Rascal Reporters, this is a welcome addition to their quirky legacy, and for newcomers, it’s an excellent entry point into one of the strangest musical worlds in existence.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Rascal Reporters, Dave Newhouse (Manna / Mirage)

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