Strafe F.R. – The Bird Was Stolen

strafeBernd Kastner and Siegfried M. Syniuga are back on the Touch roster with their first new album for the label since the early 1990s. The Düsseldorf duo has announced its return with a growling, shrieking monster of an album. The Bird Was Stolen must be heard to be believed.

And it really must be heard.

Kastner and Syniuga began working together in 1979. Their early efforts helped pioneer the use of found recordings and home-made instruments in sound sculpture. They were among those early adopters of the studio-as-instrument philosophy.

Their full name, Strafe Für Rebellion, translates as “punishment for rebellion.”

The album opens on a deceivingly gentle note. “Jovian Tempest” begins with barely a peep before a wave of harsh electronics washes in. A heavily treated vocal howls; a guitar quivers.

From the album’s notes: “We often amplify sounds quite loudly, that actually have a very low natural dynamic. This is interesting when recording guitar, piano and the human voice – to reduce the normal recording level by an extreme and amplify the soft, low sounds.”

“Pianosmoke” is another fascinating piece. Like much of this 63-minute recording, it vibrates in big, thick waves.

More from the notes: “We have a piano that is somehow completely bare-boned as if a butcher had been at work. The piano is lying on its back – we can climb into its corpse. The piano strings are easy to access and we prepare them with anything that influences a possible recording. Loudspeakers are installed. Inside the piano we play bass and guitar to use the resonance of the strings of the piano.”

If you’re in the mood for aggressive electronics that don’t depend on a drum machine, you could do a lot worse than this remarkable disc. But its real value is not limited to the therapeutic benefits of noisy music.

The Bird Was Stolen pulls together a rich palette of surprising, electrifying sounds – some found, some performed – in the process, building a commanding work of art.

Kevin Press

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