Michael Bernier & Ritchie DeCarlo - Strangers album review

Former Stick Man and drummer’s inaugural collaboration with some special guests

Michael Bernier & Ritchie DeCarlo - Strangers album artwork

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Fulcrum opens with ominous picking so close to the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Dance Of Maya it sounds at first like a cover version, then they race off into a faster section with an untrammelled guitar solo by Bernier (who also plays Chapman Stick and bass), then decelerate back into the opening section with Pat Mastelotto on second drum kit upping the intensity.

Like all the music here, dynamics are key and Eyes, a seemingly straightahead rock song, shifts through lyrical moods, bursting open in a blur of exultant guitar and drums before putting on the brakes for a melodic finale. On Backward Towne Bernier plays perpetual motion Stick and guitar patterns with DeCarlo occasionally playing accents against the main lines in a completely different tempo in a way that will have you winding back to figure out exactly what it was you just heard. Most of the material is instrumental and Tony Levin plays electric cello on the balladic Amrhán Do Ana. Two of the most effective tracks are the most eclectic: Trans Am is based on former Zappa side man Ed Mann’s electronic mallet percussion section, while the lengthy Broken Museum is a strange brew of acoustic and electronic percussion, bass, keyboards, Stick and Theremins.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.