The Strato Ensemble Drawn Straws

On the Strato Ensemble’s recent Drawn Straws, the L.A.-based jazz ensemble open the disc by veering into ’70s jazz-fusion excess. And while they demonstrate the influence of Weather Report and other fusion bands, the Strato Ensemble, led by keyboardist Dean De Benedicis, go to more engaging, albeit scattered, musical places on this nine-track disc. But first, examples of the excess: meandering synthesisers, tedious instrumental noodling and the flawed experiments with John Oswald-like cut-ups show up on "Finding 7.4 Corners” and "Empowering Gamesake.” Moving onto the first point of musical interest on Drawn Straws, which is the comparison to Tortoise. They do have that nouveau art-rock vibe but it lies closer to home than Chicago. Check the track "The Motion of You,” where the band are reminiscent of Do Make Say Think’s meditative-turning-to-explosive rock outs. In this mode, they exist in a weird time-space continuum, one wide legged jean in fusion and the other Blundstoned boot in the soundscapes of post-rock and ’70s ECM improv. Another intriguing moment on the disc is "Galaxing,” which eerily revisits the Orb’s Live 93 album in all its undulating, psychedelic, raving glory. And the album’s closing track, "Higher Losing,” is a billowy nod towards Brian Eno’s mid-’70s ambient music. In the end, Drawn Straws sounds better with your finger working the player’s program button. (Fateless)