Strategy: Strategy
Peak Oil

A self-titled twelve-inch vinyl outing available in a 300-copy run, Paul Dickow's latest Strategy full-length—a strong follow-up to 2007's Future Rock as well as the inaugural release for the upstart Peak Oil imprint—keeps the spotlight on two styles in particular: the kaleidoscopic World House style previously featured on—what else?—the World House twelve-inch Dickow issued on Community Library label in 2005, and a spacey and effervescent electro-pop sound that places Dickow's own vocals front and center.

After an introductory section of incredible density, “Sugar Drop” settles into an interplanetary space-pop style (space-bop if you prefer) that might catch Strategy listeners of long-standing a little bit off-guard. A dubby bass line and echo-drenched drums intone loudly, the loping groove a loose yet solid enough anchor to keep the chunky guitar riffs and watery keyboards from splintering apart. As per usual, Dickow threads a huge number of sounds into the arrangement, but not so much that the singing is overpowered. A smoother vocal delivery differentiates “Objects of Desire” from the opener, even if the clamorous swirl percolating under the voice prevents the tune from ever becoming too conventional. Following a brief instrumental interlude (“Another Rain”), “Baby Fever” closes the side with a feverish stab at James Brown-styled funk, with the chanted title and chicken-scratch guitars accompanied by honking baritone saxophones and even a wailing sax solo. On the B-side, “Saturn's Day” revisits the heady vibe of the opening songs, though plunges more deeply into a psychedelic zone, while the closing instrumental “Dilemmas” also opts for fuzz-toned psychedelia, if this time drenched in squiggly synths and other mind-melting sounds.

As ear-catching as the album's other songs might be, the high point to these ears is “Friends and Machines,” which opens side two with seven blistering minutes of Dickow's African-house-dub brew, a wild and steamy blend of spidery African guitar lines, dub bass lines, blazing horns, and a buoyant house bounce—think of it as some imaginary King Sunny Ade and King Tubby showdown. Instrumental or otherwise, Dickow's genre-defying tunes are always difficult to pin down, which is no bad thing (in fact, welcome), though dub almost always forms part of the mix in both stylistic and production capacities.

October 2012