Stromba: Tales from the Sitting Room

Although a six-year gap separates Stromba's 1999 FatCat EP, The Pinch, from its full-length debut, Tales From The Sitting Room, the trio (producers James Dyer and Tom Tyler, plus regular contributor bassist/guitarist James McKechan) didn't labour obsessively over every second of the new material, draining it of life in the process; instead, the album's twelve songs were recorded sporadically over a five-year span (and mostly in Tyler's sitting room, hence the title) and consequently retain an exuberant live feel. Stromba demonstrates a deft command of multiple styles but the group's more intent on performing within those genres rather than significantly advancing them. Nor, seemingly, does Stromba mind borrowing from others when the mood strikes; trumpeter Duncan Mackay not only invites comparisons to Miles Davis in “Swings and Roundabouts” but literally references his trademark 'peck-peck-peck' too.

As mentioned, Stromba's range is impressive, the group proving itself equally adept at psychedelic post-rock (“Blue Skin”), dub (the aptly-named “Septic Skank” and the horn-laden “Tickle Me Dub”), and far-flung exotica (“Swamp Donkey,” with its African drum flavour and gamelan bell patterns). The broiling groove of rolling breaks in “Invisible Stink” oozes a faint trace of jungle while “Giddy Up” opens in disco mode but quickly morphs into infectious afro-funk boosted by bright, staccato horn lines (and a wah-wah trumpet that can't help but suggest ‘70s-period Miles). Not surprisingly, the Eastern jazz of “Camel Spit” moves slowly across a vast and mysterious desert, all the while serenaded by James Nye's entrancing soprano sax playing. Whatever the style, the material never loses its natural, organic character. Though Stromba doesn't revolutionize any genres on Tales From The Sitting Room, the group realizes its modest goals with aplomb.

September 2005