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Friday, May 23, 2014

Rusconi - History Sugar Dream (Qilin / Beejazz, 2014) **½

By Martin Schray

Rusconi’s 2012 release Revolution was a wonderful record, it was full of surprises going beyond the usual framework set of a piano trio (listen to Alice in the Sky where the trio teams up with Fred Frith if you want to know what I mean).  And then you put History Sugar Dream on your stereo and you might check if this is the wrong album or if it is a false pressing.

Stefan Rusconi (p), Fabian Gisler (b) and Claudio Strüby (dr) like this idea, it seems to amuse them. “Finally”, the first track, starts with Strüby on vocals, strumming a guitar while Rusconi joins in on a diddley bow. It is ethereal and light-headed pop, it reminds a bit of Mazzy Star or Beck on his Seachange album – just without that recording’s minor key nostalgia and craving.

Rusconi say that they want to explore things, that they want to have fun, they do not want to be pigeonholed. For them music has no limits, that’s why they change their instruments on “Change” - Rusconi plays the guitar, Strüby plays piano and Gisler plays the drums. They are like naïve children discovering a new world.

This sounds like a good idea, it seems to be an innovative and adventurous approach as to atmosphere, moods, and songwriting– however, it is mostly the opposite. History Sugar Dream is an album that remains on the surface, there is nothing new about it. There are classical Rusconi tracks like “Ankor” or “Yogya Trip”, although they sound like the outtakes of “Revolution”. Still, this is interesting music on the borderline between jazz and pop. But the album fails when they go beyond: “Twisted” is a dry and unobtrusive Robert Wyatt track, the rhythmic breaks and the vocals, which are put through the effect machines, seem artsy fartsy; on “Change” they sound like amateur Prefab Sprout imitators. 

Above all, the album mainly fails as to sound. Especially the guitar solos are adult orientated rock, like on the 14-minute “Sojus Dream” or “Mediation”.  The music lacks compositional impetus, there is hardly something you don’t expect, it’s predictable.

In 2013 Rusconi rightfully received an award for “Live Act of the Year 2013” in Germany, live they include deejaying and other surprising elements, they can be a great band – curious and fearless, but now they seem to have taken a wrong turn. Yet, I am sure they have some interesting music in them and their next album might be more interesting again. But for this album the title says it all: History Sugar Dream is like eating too much sugar before you go to sleep. You wake up with a headache.

History Sugar Dream is available as 180 gram vinyl (including a download) and on CD.

Listen to “Sojus Dream” here: