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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

"Voodoo Travel" Ströer Bros. & Fine — Orchestrated Bildungsroman, Stage 2 of 3: The White Knight

Voodoo Travel 
Ströer Bros. & Howard Fine

Orchestrated Bildungsroman, 
Stage 2 of 3:
The White Knight

Albrecht Dürer 
“Knight, Death & The Devil”
"In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild, and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thought renews the fear!"
—Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
Three good men set out to make one great album in 1985 and they made Nomaden and won the Prize of German Music Critics alongside Lester Bowie and Herbie Hancock.
"Oh great, you put in the Prize of German Music Critics. Yeah, we are quite proud of this one! We were dancing on the table. Being acknowledged together with those giants, our heroes."
—Ernst Ströer
By 2001, the Ströer Bros. were ready to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle a second time. They were more successful now, so they recorded at Ströer Bros. Studios. instead of Charisma Studios, München. Heraclitus was right. Three men cannot record the same album twice, for the studio isn't the same studio and the men aren't the same men. Sixteen years later is a different world and the Bros. studio time was Ströer time so they recorded slower tunes at a slower pace. The tracks recorded date now from 2001 through 2009. And these lone rangers have friends now to join together in the band. 

Howard Fine, Poet & Lyricist

Howard Fine is no longer the firebrand laying down the lowdown to save the world on vinyl, but he has adult concerns for truth and justice, and a fearful broken heart for the Earth awash in "development." The Wilderness has been laid waste by opportunists in the name of "Progress." The vast distance between rich corporations and poor people has increased since his Nomaden's observation of "Three Worlds" on one planet. "The Seeker" continues to seek, because that is the nature of a Knight Errant. Fine is no longer content to be the Provokateur. His voice is sincere, a little broken, and capable of introspection. Discretion has found its voice in Howard. Even religious imagery with its power to persuade has entered the studio: "How can mankind ever recover from this endless fall from grace?"

They call me The Seeker
I've been searching low and high
I won't get to get what I'm after
Till the day I die
I won't get to get what I'm after
Till the day I die
—Peter Townshend
The Seeker lyrics © Spirit Music Group

We are on a Pilgrim's journey on a bus not unlike Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters' "Further" bus, but far more responsible and likely drug free. Kesey's band of brothers were after experience, but Howard, Ernst & Hans are more concerned with realizing potential and beginning to take responsibility for a world on the verge. No matter how hard we try, time does its magic and we wind up over 15 years or so morphing into adults with ties to families and a stake in the survival of the Earth, concern for social equity, and civil tranquility. Howard, Ernst & Hans have made the transition from Red Night full of pith and vinegar to The White Knight concerned with social justice, self improvement and the sustainability of the planet they will leave to the children they love. 

This White Knight Band of Gypsys are not satisfied anymore with themselves. There is a ton of instrospection personally and collectively in this second wisdom marathon. All musicians are Gypsys, you must know. Jimi Hendrix knew that. Nomaden as a title is further evidence. As apprentice Bodhisattva, The Three Amigos are not really on a bus. As Howard's first lyric for "Day by Day We Drift Away" concludes: "Don't need no bus / 'Cause the bus is us!"
What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it."
—from Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
That last line of the first song has ominous meaning. We are no longer young punks tossing truth grenades at a wayward world. "Kill the lights, see the sights: / Pilgrims ride beyond inside / The dream we dream / Is the world we make / We sew her seam / Each breath we take." We are the bus and the bus won't last. We can do what we can to maintain and keep oil in the engine, gas in the tank, and air in the tires. The "Bus" here is the "Body" and there is an expiration date stamped in the heavens for every "Bus" or one of "Us." The second stage of Manhood, The White Knight, begins with the realization that no one gets out of here alive.


This is the first of a trilogy of reviews for:

1.    Nomaden 


"The red knight is symbolic of all the feelings of a typical teenage boy – uninhibited passion, rebellion, self-gratification, aggression, lust, desire for power. The red knight is out of control and dangerous, yet he is a source of great vitality and power that only needs a channel of greater maturity to hone himself."
—from “David Deida and the three knights of Iron John” by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum
2. Voodoo Travel (YOU ARE HERE) 
"The red knight gives way to the white knight, who desires to save the world from all its ills. He longs for truth and justice. He wishes to be good and do good. He is an idealist. Yet, for all his good qualities, he is also naive and deluded. The white knight doesn't have the awareness to notice that many of the ills he wants to save the world from are projections of his own undealt-with traumas and desires, and so he goes on a crusade to save the world from that which he doesn't like in himself. He points his fingers at all the dragons of the kingdom, so that songs in his praise can be sung when he conquers them (something he spends significant mental energy fantasizing about). He is on the hunt for the virgin of light, so that he can save her and feel manly. The white knight prefers to see women as damsels in distress, knowing deep down that a mature woman is too much for him. Still, in real life, he often ends up with a woman that resembles his mother."
—from “David Deida and the three knights of Iron John” by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum
3. Homeward

Taken together, they are an unintentional Bildungsroman of the three amigos: Hans Ströer, Ernst Ströer & Howard Fine. Like that "7 Up" movie series, they maybe didn't intend to make the story of growing up, but they made three albums over a long expanse of time and each fits a stage in development or an "age" of mankind. So when these three albums are taken together, their voices illustrate the Heraclytus observation that the same men can't make the same album twice, for the studio has changed, and they are not the same men. The story of The Red Knight, The White Knight, and The Black Knight are taken from Robert Bly's "Iron John."


The Post-Punk Ströer Bros. has given way to an orchestrated percussion symphony  throughout the album, and actually symphonic treatment on the achingly beautiful "Wordless Love." The confrontational music with its aggressive vocal stance from Nomaden has matured, and the hubris of youth has transformed thoughtfully into introspection and a collective call for reform. "I" has become "we" and the accusations are few and far between. The tempos are slower, but the groove is deeper. 

There is also a different sort of humor in the music and words of this album, and it is closer to the self-deprocating humor of a good late-night talk show host. There is, as well, an unexpected but delightful sense of silly playful and some cracked philosophy. There are Easter Egg references to oodles of pop and jazz ear-candy Classics from the two thousandsies. Make no mistake, all three of these albums are orchestration genius. Setting existing verse to music is no mean feat. To be clear:

no mean feat (plural no mean feats) (litotes) A laudable triumph of great difficulty; no small feat. 


1. Day By Day, We Drift Away 4:18

There is a sound like a child's music box with an electronic drumkit beating bassy in a march time hesitation step. "Day by day, we drift away / We stay, we play / We try to be the ones we are: / Ain't we all, ain't we all?" Gone is the cock sure hubris of Nomaden. We are on a kind of Merry Prankster's Further journey on a bus market Even Further Floating on a Blue Ball. Pizzicato strings replace the power pop speed trap from 15 years ago, and middle age has taken the Middle Path with slow percussion and a sweet chorus of soprano voices. Howard intones: "How can man ever recover from this endless fall from grace?" Questions now, not declamatory rants. Feminine voices take the final verse all on their own: "What's mis-sewn we two unravel / Joyful moan of Voodoo Travel / In bus we trust, ain't that enough? / Don't need no bus / 'Cause the bus - is us!" 

Roberto di Gioia
Piano on 2, 5 and 11
Synths on 2

2. Inbreath Outbreath 3:03

"The collective suicide has been averted." That is a pretty scary thing to say to start the second song on the album. "Breathless, deathless, on the threshold / Specious epos Adam's flesh told / Homo sapiens' flash in the pan / Amphigory story of man." When one wants to indicate "word play," there is not better way than to employ the word "amphigory." The weight of this song is the transitory nation of man. E.g., our bodies are all dying vessels. Good luck, Pilgrim! 

amphigory - Wiktionary › wiki › amphigory  

NounEdit. amphigory (plural amphigories). A nonsense verse; a rigmarole, with apparent meaning, which on further attention proves to be meaningless.

While Howard may be having a little fun with our mortality, The Bros. are delivering a driving jazz bass synth driven jazz tune underneath that is worthy of Cecil Taylor in that wild ass keyboard solo! Damn! Is that Roberto Di Giola? Sounds like Jaki Byard imitating early Cecil Taylor! Yousa! 

Veronika Zunhammer, Vocals
on 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12 and 13

3. The Oracle Has Answered 4:28

"The oracle has answered / In words no tongue can speak." Now when that happens, you can ask for your money back, but The Fates are more powerful than the Gods, so most just chalk it up to experience. Experience is what we are exploring here these first three songs. Now the muted trumpet solo over synth figure here is dreamy and inspiring. Damn! Once again, we may have a refugee from the Kenton orchestra blowing that thing! Unison Sprechstimme rears its many heads. "Are you on the phone more than on your own? / To which virtual vices are you habitually prone?"  Howard's distaste for this has lead him in later years to have no website, and when one tries to find him on FaceBook, no doubt one will spend many hours wondering if he is a celebrated acting teacher in the U.S.A., but he is not. He isn't there! No FB! No Messenger. Email, yes. And I must say I envy him his place in a small town in France. They live there, not virtually, but the other way. You know. 3D. 

Stefan Schwerdtfeger, Lead Vocals
on tracks: 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15

4. Stay On Course Toward The Source 5:42

(All we gotta get is out
Out of our own way
All we gotta get is out
Out of our own way
All we gotta get is
Out of our own way)

Now I tell the woman I love that text to her don't count when I put them in parenthesis. She doesn't buy that. The "Intro" to this song is written in parenthesis, and sung by the chorus of doubled voices named Veronika Zunhammer. Just one woman with many voices. I guess the Bros. don't know many women. Ah well. The feminine chorus carries the wisdom in this song, and generally throughout the album. Thanks Veronika! Howard gives the advice to stay on course toward the source. A little vague, but good advice just the same. Note the level of introspection here is monumental. The accusations of Nomaden have given way to a "We" as the subject of the song. Good man! We have begun the long road to Enlightenment, I suppose. 

"There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting."
Siddhartha Gautama, often called "Buddha"
5. On The Shores 6:07

Oh yes. Time seems to stop now. Slowly start now. There is a single-note Fender Rhodes figure sounding like a John Klemmer "Touch" minimal keyboard thing. The accented time is delicious and slow. "If you can't swing slow, you can't swing." said Count Basie.

(This is the bliss we're feeling
This is love when it turns to speech
This is the kiss of healing
This is the message from all to each)

Eastern wisdom seeps through this rubric like a sieve. A fanciful story well worth hearing exits logical thought. The Source gets lots of respect. 

Walter Weh, Saxophones & Flutes
on 2, 4, 5, 7 and 13

6. News From Nowhere 5:31

The music here is a bass heavy percussive dancescape, to coin a phrase. This works particularly well over Howard's increasingly fantasy-driven lyrics. The images are somewhere between Paul Gauguin and Pieter Bruegel and it sits right nice on a bed of wide-spectrum percussion and danceable bass. The Bros. do know how to find a groove! Note I was onto something here. Fine states what I felt a couple of songs back about the "I" becoming "we" for this outing.

Take your sorrow to the sun.
Give your tears back to the moon.
Have you heard the news
From nowhere lately?

Welcome to the oracle,
Ask the sibyl what she says:
In the fusion of communion,
When the I becomes the We.

*      *      *
Nightwatch creeps past, in dreams I wake,
When the long void day resumes;
While wordless Love, murderess Love, my heart consumes.

Anders Holt, Vocals on 7

7. Wordless Love 2:42

“Wordless Love” inspired by Clemens Brentano’s poem “Geheime Liebe”

This setting and Anders Holts' voice reminds me of a song by WasNotWas sung by Frank Sinatra Jr. or even the later song by WNW sung by Mel Tormé "Zas Turned Blue." What works so very well here is the astonishment I feel at hearing an orchestral setting of a crooner's craft to sing straight and clear a lovely ballad. I really didn't see that coming. Anders Hold knows how to sing a song! Oh my! This song is beautifully set on a luscious art song orchestral bed of lettuce. Stunning! Yummy! This setting for strings could have been written by Ennio Morricone for a movie set perhaps in Japan owing to the way the strings double the vocal melodic line.

Unloved, to drift through life's my fate;
Of rights deprived, in disrespect,
Exiled forever from Love's fair state.
On Love's fairest I dote: damned and elect.

*    *   *
Nightwatch creeps past, in dreams I wake,
When the long void day resumes;
While wordless Love, murderess Love, my heart consumes.

A theme of heartbreak was salted through the lyrics above. I have to wonder if The White Knight is fullfilling the prophecy of Robert Bly. I'll repeat it here.

"He is on the hunt for the virgin of light, so that he can save her and feel manly. The white knight prefers to see women as damsels in distress, knowing deep down that a mature woman is too much for him. Still, in real life, he often ends up with a woman that resembles his mother."   
—from “David Deida and the three knights of Iron John” by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum

8. Ghost Town Square Dance 5:17

A high chord of strings haunts the outset with that swimmy "Bill Frisell" singing guitar. Love that guitar! This really is a square dance complete with a "Devil Came Down To Georgia"-style fiddle feature. My subwoofer loves this song! Oh my! The choral break sounds like Roger Waters at his optimistic "The Tide Is Turning" best. This song is a standout in my opinion. 

Old sagging flesh so lame
Oppose attriting time in vain
To Love and strive
A losing battle - still - will
Undefeated - struggles hard
Resistance is its own reward
Incarnate again - familiar grind
Chart the changes, tame the mind
Choose your partners,
Darn your gown
It's the only dance in town.

That bleak lyric sets the tone, but the all-girl choral work (from Veronika) makes that medicine go down sweet like a honey-tongued Devil sweet talking about eternity. There is beaucoup wisdom in this song, and a story-message about the gold rush and diminishing returns and live and death, death, deathy death. We have gone deep into the realization of The White Knight that no one gets out of here alive. I just repeated that line, but it is the best lyric Jim Morrison never sang.

9. The Goal Of Soul 4:47

Knees black and blue, crawling to you:
It's the sound we make, every breath we take.
Please take us through, calling to you:
Mournful sound we make, every breath we take.
Hate cannot last for long:
Like the violence of the wrong,
Hubris of the strong.

There is a Argentine bandoneon played by Hans Ströer at the start of this song that sounds like coming home, like the smile from a friend, or a harmonica played by Toots Thielemans. I take it this song is a prayer — and a good one. The songs on this album take strange turns and prove the incredible power of those two goof balls pictured below: Hans & Ernst. The level of sophistication in the orchestration and the detail in the percussion throughout this album are stellar, but this song is one of the best. 

10. Speech Surrenders 5:34

I met a raccoon, his face a mask,
He said,"The answer you get
Is the question you ask.
'Cause just like a butterfly
Caught in the net,
The question you ask
Is the answer you get."

There is enough nonsense and Jabberwacky speech to make me wonder if Howard is taking on Brother Wittgenstein and his death of philosophy rhetoric. The combination of Through the Looking Glass and words as sonic assault against meaning with stuff like:

Speech surrenders, zero-sum game,
Everybody wins.
Speech surrenders, beyond the
Sound is found the sense.
Speech surrenders.

​“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” 
– Ludwig Wittgenstein

Dr. Ernst Ströer & Pilot Hans Ströer
3, 9, 10, 14 and 15 composed by H.P. Ströer
2, 4, 7, 11 and 13 composed by Ernst Ströer
1, 5, 6, 8 and 12 composed by H.P. Ströer and Ernst Ströer
They also sing and play drums and guitar and stuff

11. Merger With The Void 5:35

Pun alert! A "merger" is a business term for two businesses become one business. I don't know what a "merger" with the void might be. What is the "Void" anyway? That is not a term in physics but a metaphysical entity that Nietszche might stare into until it stared right back at him. 

Stardust! The Vishnu aspect. My
Continued existence depends upon
And is made possible by an ongoing
Creative act. The Big Bang is now,
Too. The elements of my body are
The elements of the cosmos. the
Environment and I are not two
Different things. What I do to the
Earth, I do to myself. What I do to
Myself, I do to the earth, to the
Water, to all my relations

Now I am very sympathetic to this understanding of what they body is, and a self is a fiction created to reinforce autonomy. It really is. 
The human body is inhabited by millions of tiny living organisms, which, all together, are called the human microbiota.

12. Darwin's Masterful Stunt 3:31

Keep the jobless pacified with late-break
heart-break tabloid news of celluloid
Android screen queens' plastic-surgered lip and nip and nose jobs.

Hi, we're zombies!

Well now! Sounds like somebody has stayed up past his bedtime! There are points being made, but I just listen and follow along and laugh and feel spacey and pithy and spicy and spacey — I already said that word — this song is great fun! Once again, I know of only one group and a couple of albums by WasNotWas that approach this level of nutty fluid crazy in just fine by me rhythmic music. Great fun! It means something, but I will leave that to you! 

The Treachery of Images

13. Pipedream's Puff 4:09

When I first plied this pilgrim's trade,
Amusement was the game I played;
All jest and zesty cavalcade,
Of consequences unafraid;
A merry marching masquerade
Of maidens who could never fade;
In answer to the prayers I prayed,
Odd plod: toward God, all promenade.

What is the "Pilgrim's Trade?" I believe we have tipped our hand here. Pilgrim's Progress employes an extended metaphor which can be called a "conceit." The word game here is cognitive dissonance. There is wisdom in mismatched analogies to free the mind of pesky sense. A sensual freedom can result. 'Nuff said.

CONCEIT, figure of speech, usually a simile or metaphor, that forms an extremely ingenious or fanciful parallel between apparently dissimilar or incongruous objects or situations.

14. Fruitfly, Multiply 4:52

There is an after-hours piano trill, then a gong, and after that a "time has stopped" ominous synth figure with ticky talk including the Child's Bedtime Prayer though altered in a sinister (left handed) manner. But this song sounds like genuine heartbreak with no disguise. I respect that. I am in love right now, and happy about that no end. Charles Aznavour once said that he wrote songs of love when he was alone after the end of a relationship, and he wrote songs about a breakup when he was in love, because that was what he feared the most. This one sounds like maybe it is so raw that it was written about a breakup and it was written DURING that breakup. It feels raw.

When two lovers each go their own way,
Nothing left to salvage, nothing left to say,
Only that we loved and lost,
Now we count the cost,
Only that we tried and failed to last another day.

When a heart breaks in a thousand bits,
Can't be reassembled, can't be coaxed to fit,
Only time and tears to cry,
Rhymes all say goodbye,
Only empty afternoons and nights that just won't quit.

When it's over, what else can we do?
Sift through heaps of falsehood searching for the true.
While each memory slips the hand,
Hopes all built on sand.

15. I Was Down On The Earth 6:40

Guitar at the beginning here sounds a touch like Radiohead's favorite intervals played swimmy. This song has lots of arranging, like various unrelated rooms in a mansion with all sorts of different styles, and a general unpredictable amble and Howard's alien or prehistoric ramble. The following passage seems a benediction to this album. Howard Fine has morphed into a figure like Shakespeare's Puck to break the "third wall" and talk an aside to the listeners:

The earth that trickles through these hands ain't worth a
Nickel, understand? And yet, though fickle, life is grand.
So when it tickles, join the band. We're all just pilgrims
On this big ball. I've said my piece, now heed the call!

Asleep awake, it seems so deep. Is it real or is it fake?
Stay attuned and learn to feel. Kiss the wound so it can heal.


Label:Ilusion Records – ILU 500.201
CD, Stereo, Special Edition with 64 Page 4 Colour Textbook
Genre:ElectronicHip HopJazzFunk / SoulPopFolk, World, & Country


1Day By Day, We Drift Away4:18
2Inbreath Outbreath3:03
3The Oracle Has Answered4:28
4Stay On Course Toward The Source5:42
5On The Shores6:07
6News From Nowhere5:31
7Wordless Love2:42
8Ghost Town Square Dance5:17
9The Goal Of Soul4:47
10Speech Surrenders5:34
11Merger With The Void5:35
12Darwin's Masterful Stunt3:31
13Pipedream's Puff4:09
14Fruitfly, Multiply4:52
15I Was Down On The Earth6:40



Voodoo Travel 
Produced By Ströer Bros. 2001-2009 
Copyright 2010 By Hans P. Ströer And Ernst Ströer Musikverlag 
Recorded At Ströer Studios 2001 - 2009 
Mixed At Ströer Studios 2009 
Picture Of NGC 7674: NASA, Public Domain. 
Photos Of Ströer Bros. And Howard Fine By Annette Hempfling, Munich 
Thank You: Troyan Drums, Munich 

                             Hans Ströer                            Ernst Ströer


Howard Fine

About Howard Fine
When he was a little boy, he could never decide what he wanted to be when he grew up and became a big adult. So he became many different things, but never very big. He danced in modern dance and classical ballet companies, and choreographed and participated in performance art events with Tanzprojekt München, Theaterlabor München, Bavarian State Opera and elsewhere.

His voice is often heard in radio plays, audiobooks (and from the mouths of cartoon characters. As lyricist and vocalist, he shared the German Record Critics’ Prize with the Ströer Bros. for their jazz and poetry project “Nomaden,” which was followed by the CDs “Voodoo Travel” and now “homeward.”

As a translator, he enables English speakers to understand German texts in genres such as literature, art criticism and poetry. He is a naturopath for psychotherapy, a certified shamanic counsellor and a yoga teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a master’s degree in literature from the University of Munich. He lives outside of Munich and in the South of France.



Submissions accepted. Send a link, not a CD. Lyrics and artwork plus any information is appreciated. Access to artists for interviews encouraged. 

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