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Rascal Reporters - Happy Accidents CD (album) cover


Rascal Reporters



3.53 | 11 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Rascal Reporters is the name of this US underground duo who developed a big (albeit marginal) career devoted to the constant reshaping of avant-garde progressive rock, mostly based on a mixture of Zappa, free jazz, RIO, krautrock and electronic experimentation. The RIO factor states a light-weight humor spin to the original European germination, not unlike other US bands from the late 70s and early 80s such as Cartoon and Pocket Orchestra. I personally had left the opportunity to do research on this band until I heard about one of its headmasters' death (Steve Gore), so "Happy Accidents", the band's fourth effort became my first RR experience. A great experience, indeed, which demanded attention and a sense of adventure from me. This album's original repertoire consisted of five tracks: the first three were grouped under the 'Weigh-In On the Weigh-Out' series, while the remaining two conformed the 'Trucks' series. 'Pilgrim's Pride' kicks off the album with a patently playful overtone, similar to some TV series jingle. Then, from out of nowhere, a lone flute state a whole different dynamic that paves the way for a frantic display of dissonant (yet not disturbing) polyphonic phrases. The frantic factor becomes enhanced later, when a new motif arrives and states an exciting mixture of free jazz and Art Bears-style RIO. This sort of bizarre successions is the stereotype that the band chooses to create its own musical voice: it seems that the duo's main interest is to utilize music as a tool of Dadaist humor, surrealistic logic and candid rebellion against the bourgeoisie conceptions of art. Moving on with the album's tracklist, 'The Chalky Substance Variations' follows this strategy, although the longer room for the motifs' development and the augmentation of the jazz- oriented element seem to create a more relaxed landscape for the duo and guests' deliveries. The presence of a recurrent joyful motif gives unity to this tracklist's first half. 'Karen's Chalky Pilgrim' closes down the 'Weigh-In On the Weigh-Out' trilogy, with a blatant use of all party music clichés: Charleston, circus, vaudeville, TV jingles. All the way until the main motif's reprise that works as the coda, the musicians display a sense of pleasant jolly folly. The album's original second half starts with the 10 ½ minute long 'Thunderstruck', full of twists and turns that compellingly show how efficient is a mixture of Zappa's craziest side, Samla Mammas Manna and Art Bears. Even though there era moments in which the musicians reinstate the sort of agility that was prominent in the album's first half, it is clear that this track's overall mood is focused on tension and deconstruction. 'Moonstruck' bears a ludic vivacity that somehow brings us back to track 2. The air of pleasant jolly folly is pertinently ornamented with more serene moods, which are provided in the interlude: this one features an introspective use of dissonant developments. The caustic elaboration of some instrumental sources may remind us of Art Bears (again), but also some stuff created by Faust during their golden years. A few second after the 8 ¾ mark, the band indulges in a brief exercise on musical chaos before getting to the circus- spirited coda. This is how the original tracklist ends. Now, the CD edition included 4 bonus tracks, with the first two being vignettes in which the band mixes free jazz flows and musique concrete. 'Another Excerpt from Psychlops' is a semi- ballad that finds the band bringing in some Canterburyish elements, without letting go of the RIO factor (a-la "Leg End"-era Henry Cow). The last bonus track, 'Stabbin' at Air', states an impressive 25+ minute duration. Experimental with a pronounced pleasant edge, complex yet not radically obtuse, not easy listening yet still bearing some accessibility, this piece can be described as an amalgam of Caravan, Zappa, Todd Rundgren, Supersister and Cartoon. That's all there is, as the Gentle Giant people would say. Well, a band that can afford to have members from Dr. Nerve, Univers Zero and 5UU's as special guests has to be interesting (at least, a priori) - in my book, Rascal Reporters is a very interesting band, a mandatory item in any avant-prog lover's collection of desert island albums. At least, "Happy Accidents" is.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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