Stromba Tales from the Sitting Room

[FatCat; 2005]

Styles: fusion, dub, post-rock
Others: Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, Tortoise, Theivery Corporation

Every once in a while a band comes along that makes music for the sheer joy of it -- for themselves, yes, but also for listeners with similar sensibilities. Stromba is just such a band and, luckily, has finally seen fit to release an outstanding collection of pieces both thought-provoking and soothing in its album Tales from the Sitting Room. The group has only put out one prior EP, The Pinch, and that was way back in the halcyon days of 1999. At that time, the group was mostly a duo, using the studio as a major instrument; and while they still twiddle many knobs on this new effort, they have recruited a number of very talented players to fill out the sound, creating something both more relaxed and organic.

Keeping in mind that this is music with little commercial aspiration, the album works like a meeting between Miles Davis and Lee Perry circa 1972, with John McEntire assisting Perry on the boards. The mysterious "Camel Spit" starts things off with a deliberately contemplative question mark rather than a forceful exclamation point. The confluence of electric organ, horn, drums, guitar, upright bass, and various auxiliary instruments alternatingly ebb and rise several times, giving the impression that something is being built up to, just to then pull back and leave a desolate soundscape of guitar strums for the listener to contemplate. The continual building and peeling back of sonic layers is a theme throughout the album, as is the constant retooling of the sound. "Invisible Stink" brings on some tense soundtrack-esque funk. "Trick Me Dub" stays true to its title as a slowburning dub nugget and features some inventively delayed cowbell playing. "Jewell" closes the album nicely with a meditative strings-only affair, foregrounding acoustic guitar and violin.

The diversity of sound isn't as fragmentary as it may seem, as all tracks are downtempo, and most importantly, exploratory in nature. Melodic phrases seem to meander off into the distance rather than becoming tightly structured and repeated. Short bursts of horn will punctuate songs never to return. Again, this is music made by the players out of their love for playing music. For those looking for a hot hook or bouncing beat, Tales from the Sitting Room will be too aimless and possibly too cerebral; but for those with an appetite for music off the beaten path, Stromba has gifted us with an album of supreme thoughtfulness and sublime beauty.

1. Camel Spit
2. Septic Skank
3. Manphibian
4. Blue Skin
5. Feed Her Procedure
6. Perculator
7. Invisible Stink
8. Giddy Up
9. Swings and Roundabouts
10. Tickle Me Dub
11. Swamp Donkey
12. Jewell