Virtual Dream: Casuality (2002)
Virtual Dream is an instrumental fusion trio from Italy. After eight years of stylistic migration and personnel changes around founding guitarist Fabio Cerrone, the group released its second full-length CD, Casuality, in 2002. Joined by drummer/percussionist Lucrezio de Seta, bassist Pierpaolo Ranieri, and several guest musicians, Virtual Dream winds through twelve tracks of modern electric fusion on Casuality.
"New Dance" opens the record in a snappy fusion style, with unison sax and guitar hits over shifty drums and rattling world-beat percussion. "Time Out" starts with a mellow intro, then builds through a plodding chord progression. The short acoustic guitar interlude "True Colors" feels out of place, but not as awkward as the four-minute drum solo "Relations." The synth drums on the first section of "Outside" clash with the natural instruments of the previous tracks. "Casuality" has a round bass groove under strident chords, reminiscent of David Fiuczynski's solo work. "Nocturnal Tendencies" and "Post Virtual Phaze" both feature wickedly syncopated drums. Overall, the songwriting on Casuality shows a strong influence from John McLaughlin's late-'90s fusion record The Heart of Things, except with more static guitar parts and a strong electronic flavor. Several of the songs seem ripe for extended jams, including "New Dance," "Outside," "Casuality," and "Post Virtual Phaze," but instead they end oddly abruptly.
The playing by all musicians is skillful and professional, especially de Seta's syncopated rhythms and Panieri's soulful bass melody on "A Tra Poco." The three core members of Virtual Dream are joined by a guest saxophonist (Alessandro Tomei) on the opening track and a guest keyboardist (Alessandro Gwis) on most of the other tracks. These additional musicians fill out the studio sound, especially Tomei, but they also contribute to the record's main flaw.
Casuality has a slick sound, nowhere more apparent than in the sampled voiceover on the title track. This may be due to the heavy use of studio effects, like on the intro to "New Dance," or the extensive overdubs necessary for the three core members to play multiple instruments on most of the tracks. Whatever the reason, this processed studio sound leaves the music lacking a spark of live interaction that a larger band might have covering all those parts live. The Heart of Things had a similar problem, in the same modern electric fusion styleonly on Live in Paris did that band fully shine. Perhaps Virtual Dream should consider recording its material live with a lineup of guest musicians. The sound might not be as immaculate, but the spark of musicians of this caliber interacting in a live fusion setting should more than make up for it.
Track Listing: 1. New Dance; 2. Time Out; 3. Malatesta; 4. True Colors; 5. Outside; 6. Nocturnal Tendencies; 7. Casuality; 8. Relations; 9. Homer's Monkey; 10. Post Virtual Phaze; 11. A Tra Poco; 12. Hop Frog.
Personnel: Fabio Cerrone -- electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, programming; Lucrezio de Seta -- drums, percussion, virtual drums, keyboards, programming; Pierpaolo Ranieri -- fretted and fretless bass, bass loops; Alessandro Tomei -- guest also sax; Alessandro Gwis -- guest keyboards, synths; Mario Distaso -- guest percussion.