Published: November, 2008, West Coast Performer Magazine

The Dazzling Strangers "The Stars Are Ours"
Recorded by Chris in Grass Valley and Ron in Oakland and Portland
Mastered by Dana Gumbiner at Station to Station

By Michael Fortes

Though The Dazzling Strangers are a new band in name, their full-length debut has a definite transitional feel to it. Chris Streng, former leader of the noisy psychedelic San Francisco combo The Stratford 4, has resurfaced since his former band’s demise and now fronts this loose collective of San Francisco and Portland musicians. “Loose” is the operative word here, as the 11 songs that make up The Stars Are Ours seem to follow an “anything goes” dictum.

Some of the old Stratford 4 noise-drone tendencies have naturally carried forward into the work of the Strangers, with The Velvet Underground-on-acid “Single Girl on a Sunday Morning” bearing the strongest resemblance to Streng’s musical past. But this song is ultimately an anomaly amongst anomalies. “Going Out” opens with chiming, reverb-drenched guitar, which then disappears in light synthesized beats and keyboards, opening the album with a minimalist bent whose concept is threaded throughout but whose exact sound is never heard again. Even the remix of the song at the album’s close has extra bells and whistles (synth horns, more organ, less echo), retaining the original’s minimalist feel yet sounding different enough to warrant its inclusion. The mellotron-ish washes, acoustic guitar and flute that characterize “Annie” dip into a folkie 1960s palette, while “Sally Backwards” is all Streng accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with a trippy echo on his voice. The best of the solo acoustic tunes, “Taxi Cab” is more or less straight blues and stands apart as the album’s most memorable moment.

Ultimately, other than the common thread of the Northwest drawl in Streng’s vocal delivery, it’s difficult to get a grasp of who The Dazzling Strangers are and what they’re all about musically on this first album. Which, given the band’s name, could be Streng’s point all the while.

The Dazzling Strangers "The Stars Are Ours" album cover

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