Il Ruscello is an Italian three-piece band I discovered through Prog Archives, and more specifically, through the mentions of this band and album by my friends Jim and Andrea over there who are Italian Prog experts.
After the jump you can read my impression of their 2009 release, Paesaggio Solare (Estate 1972).
At some point during 2009, I noticed several Italian prog rock groups releasing new albums, be it new or older bands. One of them was Il Ruscello (the stream). Curious, after seeing some glowing reviews of their album, Paesaggio solare (estate 1972), I decided to get hold of it.
The band consists of three musicians from Milan who now reside in London: the two brothers Silvio Cavallo (vocals, acoustic guitar, drums), Giampaolo Cavallo (bass) and Luca Herb (guitars, synthesizers, piano). This album was said to be in the vein of early 70s Rock Progressivo Italiano albums such as Le Orme and Premiata Forneria Marconi. Indeed they do have this vintage sound and approach (as well as art work and design) that characterizes albums from these older days, this album manages to sound fresh (and appealing), but with some flaws. The whole album is less than 40 minutes, and has 6 tracks on it.
The bass is pretty dominant in this release, a powerful driving force and rhythmic source. The second most noticeable characteristic is the keyboards. They give the color and flashiness to the music, giving it character, appeal and beauty. They define the mood and then counteract it. The third element that is crucial here are the vocals. And here I have a problem. For the most part they are fine, but when going to higher registers or at time when a softly spoken or sung section is done, I hear them going slightly out of tune and becoming too nasally, which is a shame, as this would have amplified the effect the music has, had a better vocalist been used in these sections. The title track is the weakest song in terms of vocals, as it clearly sounds as if he can't reach that high a note. But don't let it scare you away, as I can for the most part get over it and enjoy listening to the songs even at those moments where I find fault in the singing.
The music, however, is another matter. The first track can give an example of the range of dynamics at play here. With its various sections, it travels from a soft and unsure start to a decisive and structured rock part, with a very "exposed" bass line (it's at the front of the mix); the song is further developed with a keyboards and guitar solo and the ever present bass, which has a propelling rhythm. The song goes from high points with thrilling peaks to calmer grounds; it recapitulates previous sections and ties it all together and then goes on a new journey, further developing the main theme. The title song and the last song Orizzonti both deliver the same level of song-writing and musicianship found in the opening track and are as enjoyable.
My favourite track is La grande Citta, which is divided into two songs: La Notte di una Citta and Il Risveglio di una Citta. These two together form a stellar musical experience, with high emotional peaks and superb instrumental segments (here's an example where the vocals can diminish the experience). The second part, starts with an earworm keyboards line, backed up by percussion and then the bass joining it, followed by the guitar. The build up is well done as more layering, ornamentation and development is done to the original basic melody. The music becomes more powerful, more aggressive, fuller and richer until the peak. Which in turn gives way to a side-development of that tune. This is classic progressive rock that isn't too complicated or pretentious, but rather relies and relishes in the fun form of rock and simply adds some little sophistication to it, but the raw energy and power are there to enjoy. Too bad they end the song in a clear-cut manner; I'd have preferred a subtler ending that would better fit the spirit of the song.
Despite the flaws I've mentioned, I find this a compelling album; the music is too good to not listen to, despite the issues I mentioned above. They take simple melodies and make them more interesting and special and build up on them to create an appealing piece with their craftsmanship. Worth getting!