Tales from the Sitting Room

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They put out a 12" on FatCat back in 1999, and the modified electro-funk of "Giddy Up" was a dancefloor hit in 2004. But Stromba have been pretty quiet otherwise, so Tales from the Sitting Room will be many listeners' first exposure to their hybridist sound. Producers James Dyer and Tom Tyler have created a record informed with dub and electronic texture, as well as the live brass, percussion, melodica, and organ of their collaborators. The lingering grooves of Miles Davis' On the Corner beckon here, too, in "Giddy Up" itself or the flaring trumpet in "Invisible Stink." But Sitting Room is just as happy to hang in the shadows left over from trip-hop, those big muddy basslines doddering along over looped guitar and scratchy background samples. (Check out "Feed Her Procedure.") Where basslines are muddy, there will be dub residue, and Stromba don't disappoint. A melodica whines in the opening strains of "Septic Skank" before leading into the stuttering notes of a Hammond over staircase bass and reverb -- there's even a hen cackling in the background -- and "Tickle Me Dub" backs that up with a great horn break and loads of ticking, tinkling percussion. As Tales from the Sitting Room unfolds you get tired of trying to spot the influence. It's a worthless exercise, anyway -- these tracks are too well crafted to get snobby about. And besides, with the explosion of chillout comps and stale trip-hop forays at the end of the 1990s, it's refreshing to hear a largely instrumental, groove-based record that, you know, actually grooves. Recommended.

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