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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stratospheric Art Rock

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Statobahn is a Milwaukee band that has taken years to gel. They first performed in 2005 “at a party on somebody's driveway,” as keyboardist Dave Hucke recalls, without the benefit of a name. The Germanic neologism finally came about in part through a typographical error. Meanwhile members came and went and returned, with the lineup eventually stabilizing around Hucke and co-founder Pete Torres (drums) with Tony Dietzler (guitar) and Randy Rock (bass). And yes, Hucke insists, Randy Rock is his real name.

Their press kit labels them as “progressive art rock,” a term that implies more than it defines. Statobahn originated around one particular song Hucke wrote and recorded on his iMac, “A Better Day,” which Statobahn finally recorded on the first of its two CDs. “I was depressed and looking for work,” he says of the tune's inception. “I was inspired by a song by No Doubt, although what I wrote sounded nothing like that.” Torres, with whom he had played in the '80s band Alien, loved the number. They began the search for musicians.

Their latest album, Regeneration, is a peek into the nebulous boundaries of Statobahn's sound. The standout track is the moody, almost psychedelic “Elegy,” with music that resolves suicidal thoughts in favor of living. “I try to make it cry,” Dietzler says of his first guitar solo. On the second, “I go more melodic and hopeful.”

While Rock's sometimes funky playing and strong tenor voice have rounded out the band's range, Dietzler's contributions have helped define Statobahn's creative tension. He's an engineer and Hucke is a filmmaker, so every performance is a contest between sequential thinking and intuition. “Dave pushes for a heavy sound and I push for a blues-rock, '70s acoustic sound. I bring in texture and Dave wants power chords—so we do both,” Dietzler explains.

Statobahn can play a night's worth of original songs, but the band can also season the set list with a potpourri of covers, including numbers by Collective Soul, Rush, ZZ Top and New Order. “We're still a little schizophrenic,” Dietzler admits. But in an eclectic era with no true center, a band with many mood shifts probably stands to gain an audience.

Statobahn performs June 3 at Smokin' Joe's, 6139 W. Beloit Road, West Allis.