Exposé Online banner

The Stratos Ensemble — Accident at Clear Lake
(Bandcamp no#, 2017, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2018-01-13

Accident at Clear Lake Cover art

The Stratos Ensemble is a group of highly skilled improvising musicians led by keyboard and electronics player Dean De Benedictis, also known as Surface 10 for his purely electronic endeavors, or in these pages for his numerous releases under his own name on Spotted Peccary and his own Fateless imprint. Also featured on this recording are bassist Doug Lunn (Chad Wackerman Trio, and Brand X with John Goodsall and Nick D’Virgilio), drummer Brock Avery (Wayne Kramer and others) and guitarist Daniel Coffeng (a veteran of previous Stratos Ensemble releases). The group is sort of a rotating cast of players, with each of the recordings featuring a different lineup, sometimes four, sometimes five members, the idea being to get together without any previously written material and just let it happen, the same methodology as Barry Cleveland’s Cloud Chamber, except here, instead of their ethnic and bowed strings component, we have a more progressive rock / fusion outcome, rife with power, intensity, and spirited playing, where just about anything can happen at any time, but these guys are master improvisers, so instead of noodling around looking for a direction and occasionally getting off the ground, these guys are airborne from the first few measures until the last. The track titles aren’t all that imaginative, but “Set 1” (indexed into four long sections) is 42 minutes of pure intensity, with every player driving hard, and as a group, getting the results that push the limits of sonic exploration. There are no vocals, only pure instrumental fury, but there are some electronic samples that sound like bits of juxtaposed voices. They can switch from a killer fusion attack to a floating atmospheric sound effortlessly, much in the way King Crimson morphs on some of their classic improvs, then one of the players might bring in a fresh groove, and off they go again into a whole new direction. By comparison, “Set 2” is a mere 21 minutes, and takes a slightly different approach, perhaps more delicate, dreamy and electronic at the outset, building slowly to a bristling climax. Apparently these are both excerpts of a longer session recorded at Clearlake studios in North Hollywood. All three of their CD releases can be heard on the group’s website, as well as many tracks from compilations and unreleased gems as well. Accident at Clear Lake packs a load of power and should be of interest to all fans of eclectic improvisational fusion.


Filed under: New releases, 2017 releases

Related artist(s): Dean de Benedictis (Surface 10), The Stratos Ensemble

More info
http://thestratosensemble.bandcamp.com/releases

Latest news

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Electric Orange - Orange Communication – Some may recall that we reviewed the original Electric Orange album back in issue #4. That album, essentially the project of Dirk Jan Muller and friends, was a modern interpretation of the spirit of...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues