Quruli: Tanz Walzer

The members of Quruli really overextended themselves in 2005. 2004 saw the release of Antenna, one of the group’s strongest works, and a lengthy tour which took them all over Japan and portions of North America. After all that activity, it would make sense to recharge a bit, right?

Nope. Guitarist/singer Kishida Shigeru and bassist Satou Masashi went headlong into helping Cocco stage a comeback with Singer Songer, then later Quruli released its fifth album, Nikki. Neither project possessed the focus of the band’s recent work at the time. Kishida and co. were spreading themselves too thin.

So it’s with cautious optimism that I approached Quruli’s sixth album, Tanz Walzer. Opting instead to release a greatest hits collection in 2006, Quruli took the break they should have in 2005. Was it enough time for the band to recharge? That depends on your expectations.

Tanz Walzer could either be construed as a return to form or as further evidence of the band’s decline. The music this time around is much more subdued, and the influence of Vienna, where the band recorded a bulk of the album, threads itself deeply into the material. From the German song titles to the lush orchestra, Tanz Walzer marks the sharpest creative turn for the band since 2002’s The World Is Mine.

Most of the songs never reach a fast tempo. "Bremen" and "Jubilee" set the pace of the album — the former making really good use of orchestral woodwinds, the latter filled out by a big string orchestra. The album doesn’t really kick off till the third track, "Millions of Bubbles in My Mind".

And when the pace does pick up, it doesn’t get maniacal or, for that matter, very rocking. A dark guitar riff drives "Anarchy in the Musik", while the guitar work on "HAMU wo Tabetai SCHNIKEN" sounds slightly dirty.

One the one hand, the slower songs make Quruli sound tired, as if the grind of the last decade has left the band spent. At the same time, Quruli isn’t a young upstart anymore, and the maturity of the music sounds appropriate, perhaps even welcome. One thing is for certain — this album is much better than Nikki.

Toward the end, Kishida shows off all that he’s soaked in from Vienna. "Cafe Hawelka" is pretty much a gypsy/polka song, while "Slowdance" indulges in a bit of country. "Kotoba wa Sankaku Kokoro wa Shikaku TRIANGLE" concludes the album, and it’s reminiscent of the single "Highway".

If Nikki caused listeners to stop following Quruli, Tanz Walzer may not exactly win them back. The album does not bring the band back to its prime, but it does keep with Quruli’s character. Quruli has always been an eclectic and adventurous band, and the Viennese influence on Tanz Walzer adheres to that aesthetic. If anything, it’s one of the most focused albums Quruli has recorded.