Strategy: Strut

Fidgety, explorative, and mercurial are words that spring to mind while listening to Paul Dickow's (aka Strategy) Strut. Its instrumental music differs markedly from the kind Dickow pursues as a live keyboardist with Fontanelle or as an instrumental contributor to indie-electronic group Nudge. Unlike the composed, jazzy post-rock of the former or the improvised, laid-back style of the latter, Strut's nine tracks unfold unpredictably. Apparently there are two sides to Strategy: ambient electronic music (for kranky) and experimental dance-based music (for Outward Music Company) which, in this case, is constructed using live instruments, field recordings, DSP, and electronics. To call it dance-based is misleading, however, because Strut hardly adheres to a conventional 4/4 template, but instead unfolds in a perpetually restless manner, much like the music of Autechre or Low Res.

Having said that, many tracks do adhere to a general pattern whereby initiating atmospheric electronic patterns are later joined by percussion treatments. The specific nature of those patterns, however, differs on each track: on “Delicious” they chatter, on “15” they burble, and on the laconic “The Sea is So Cold” they have an aquatic and glissando character. On “‘Fuck It, Baby,” extended treble tones hover over a softly bubbling Ovalesque base until stuttering drums and effects add a more aggressive feel. “Splash,” on the other hand, evokes Porter Ricks with its pulsating electronic washes and mutating layers. Most tracks have an intensely unstable feel because of their insistent, propulsive drum and cymbal patterns, although, contrastingly, “Reanimated 1” opens with becalmed synth chords. However, they too quickly transform into a grander assemblage of percussive accents, billowing synths, and meandering bass lines. On the twelve minute “Strut,” gently murmuring electronics form a base for dense layers of stuttering percussion treatments and whistling tones. Strut captivates because of its freshness and unpredictability. Part of what makes it so appealing is that, in general, Dickow wastes little time in getting to the point of each track and then moving on quickly once it's been made.

August 2003