Over the last few years I have become friends with Dave Newhouse (The Muffins) and Jerry King, both of whom are members of Moon X among others. They thought I might be interested in some of their older releases so put together a package and sent it down to NZ, which is why I am now listening to the 2017 album by Diratz. The bandname is new to me, but I had previously come across the singer Carla Diratz as she has appeared on some Manna/Mirage releases, and in many ways, this is the missing link between 2015’s ‘Blue Dogs’ and 2018’s ‘Rest of the World’. Named after The Muffins’ 1978 debut album, Manna/Mirage was formed by woodwind and keyboard player Dave Newhouse, and he was soon joined by fellow Muffins Billy Swann and Paul Sears, as well as Newhouse’s son George, along with Mark Stanley and Steve Pastena. This was the only time there was a full band, and it was after the debut album that Diratz came into being with Dave and George joining forces with Bret Hart and French singer Carla Diratz, along with a few guests (such as Jerry). The next Manna/Mirage album was much more of a solo Newhouse release, as have been the others since then, with plenty of guests, including Bret, Carla and Jerry.

It was released through Bandcamp in 2020 and I always enjoy seeing how bands describe themselves, and here we get chamber jazz, chamber rock, jazz and RIO. To be honest, even without playing the album that is what I would expect from Dave who has become one of my most listened to musicians I recent times. He is a master of experimental music which is always intriguing, always taking the listener in new directions, with multiple layers of woodwind, and by working with a blues-based emotional singer we find him moving in quite new directions. It is difficult to realise the musicians all worked independently in different studios, with Carla in France while the rest were in America, and her vocal style is rooted in the cabaret scene of the Sixties, often quite at odds with what is happening beneath her, yet somehow it all links together in a manner which makes it one of the most intriguing releases of Newhouse I have yet come across. 

“Song for Jaki” is for Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit, who died from pneumonia in 2017, and is mostly in German and while it is less than three minutes in length it is wonderfully powerful with its repetition. The following year saw Newhouse back in other projects and it appears this is the only release by Diratz, although Carla is still active in the scene, and for many this wonderful RIO release has dropped right under the radar, which is a travesty as this is an enveloping which is bringing together genres which have no right to coexist but somehow do, wonderfully. The digital version contains an additional bonus cut which is not available on the CD but given that has now sold out I can only urge you to investigate Bandcamp to discover a truly delightful and enjoyable piece of work. 8/10 Kev Rowland