Dusseldorf combo Strafe Für Rebellion started life in the late 1970s as the duo of Bernd Kastner and Siegfried Michail Syniuga, who made a series of records under that name for Soleilmoon, Staalplaat, and Touch. I never studied any of their 1980s-1990s work, but I’m getting the impression it was mostly voice/text based cut-up work, heavy on the distortion, and with something of an “industrial” undercurrent. There’s certainly something a tad foreboding about a record called A Soundless Message of Death, but that was in 1984 when such weighty matters were occupying the minds of many neurotics.
They’re here today in a new-ish incarnation, appearing as Strafe F.R., and joining forces with a female vocalist named Caterina De Re. On The Bird Was Stolen (TOUCH TO:110), their first release since their 2014 “comeback” album Sulphur Spring, you can enjoy 14 examples of their studio craft. Evidently they have become highly proficient with digital technique and evolved their edgy, alarming musique-concrète style into the area of avant-techno and deep-dark ambient, all undertaken on their own highly individual terms of course, to produce some deeply ugly and unsettling abstract noise episodes. The voice elements are distorted and transmutated into all sorts of new and terrifying shapes, extreme enough to give Henri Chopin permanent cardiac arrest; in places it’s only barely possible to recognise a human being’s larynx at work.
The more alarming cuts are front-loaded at the start of the CD; ‘Aconite’ for instance, is like hearing absurdist poetry recited by merciless robots from the future, while on ‘Anophleis’ the voice of Caterina De Re is remade by extreme studio digital-malarkey into some grotesque evil hybrid of Bjork and Clare Grogan, swimming for dear life in a vat of green acid. Other tracks, like the highly evocative ‘Golden Stomach’, seem to downplay the voice components in favour of contemporary industrial noise-experimentation, scads of digital delay and reverb, and mysterious instrumental passages floating in among the heavy hammer-blows of percussive sounds. So far this is like an update on H.N.A.S. – it’s got the same streak of cruelty and sardonic absurdity, and a Dadaist touch of mischief that makes the creators want to poison every sound they touch, infecting it with unnatural cancers and shape-shifting properties.
This strong meat will take a bit of digesting; better line your own ‘Golden Stomach’ before you partake, but it’s superbly crafted and I have a feeling it’s possible to acquire a taste for it. From 29th May 2018.