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Stratospheerius: Headspace

Hailed as champions of "psychojazz trip funk," Stratospheerius leap deep into progdom with Headspace — a smart and satsifying album in which a mandolin-powered instrumental called "Gutterpunk Blues" can straddle a frantic, spot-on cover of The Police's "Driven to Tears," and a Jewish heavy metal anthem ("Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle") and a solid, fiddle-fueled rocker about a songwriter pissed off because he can't write a song ("New Material") book-end a collection of 10 equally fascinating pieces.

Fronted by electric violinist (and guitarist, singer and mandolin man) Joe Deninzon, Stratospheerius veers more heavily from its instrumental past into vocal-based music influenced as much by Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell as Frank Zappa and Bela Fleck, Kansas and The Flower Kings. Hence, these songs tell stories that, coupled with some intense instrumentation that the quartet makes sound way too easy, emerge as substantial pieces of ear candy. And the three instrumentals here improve significantly upon the band's earlier work.

Despite the unusual shredding (mandolin rules, dude!) and virtuoso aspirations inherent in this music, Headspace resonates with an earthbound freshness that reflects a charming change of direction for a band that's already established itself as critical darling. The possibilities just became seemingly endless.

Track Listing
1) New Material
2) Old Ghosts
3) Sold Out
4) Today Is Tomorrow
5) Mental Floss
6) Gutterpunk Blues
7) Driven to Tears
8) Yulia
9) Long Rd.
10) Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle

Added: July 30th 2007
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Stratospheerius Web Site
Hits: 2756
Language: english

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Stratospheerius: Headspace
Posted by Jedd Beaudoin, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-07-30 07:18:06
My Score:

Our old pal Joe Deninzon is at it again with his lil' band from NYC, Stratospheerius. This time, Deninzon mutes his fusion influences ever so slightly to emerge with a record that's more pop inflected than anything he's done in the past. And it's a beautiful thing, as demonstrated via the smooth but not too smooth "Old Ghosts," the ballady "Today Is Tomorrow" (featuring some of the violin master's best recorded playing to date) and a fascinating and timely cover of the old Police classic "Driven To Tears."

Deninzon has always excelled at mixing genres in unexpected ways and the tracks on Headspace prove no exception, whether the bluegrass-cum-metal-cum-jazz-cum-pop of "Gutterpunk Blues" (Bela Fleck-meets-Cheech and Chong's "Earache My Eye"?), the Dregsian metal attack of "Mental Floss," or the reprisal of "Heavy Shtettle" ("Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle"). (Other highlights include "Yulia" and "Long Road.")

While it's vogue to talk about "world music" when what we really mean to discuss is indigenous music, Deninzon is one of those rare artists who actually plays world music––he circles the globe, pulling together disparate influences and styles and emerges with a musical melting pot that is ultimately––and, curiously, alternately––more American than bluegrass and more worldly than an upper crust lad who's spent one or two seasons abroad.

One of the true giant talents of our time. An American-Russian classic whose time is coming.

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