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Orso | Long Time By (Perishable)
oRSo is a collaboration between Rex's Phil Spirito and Red Red Meat's Brian Deck and as such allows them to experiment with different textures and moods from their day jobs. This is their second album and it's a seductive, often invigorating blend of unusual instrumentation, sinister ballads and a bucketful of Tom Waits influences. Just scanning the credits on the sleeve tells you what you want to know about the album, instruments listed include office chair, typewriter, door and water as well as the more traditional glockenspiels, banjos and sequencers. The album duly alternates between tense instrumentals and gravel voiced songs, between post rock, and dubby cut 'n' paste collages somewhere to the left of Giant Sand. Vaguely Eastern sounding banjo melodies underlie most of the songs and in Mama, the plink-plonk of the banjo is reminiscent of Japanese Kabuki theatre music; ascetic, sharp and dramatic as hell. Spirito has a decent voice, put to good use on the lonesome and languid love song Well or the schizophrenic Mavis. The strange blend of instruments works well, creating an unsettling fairground ambience, both thrilling and dangerous, always complementing the music and never sounding as if they're just there for the novelty value. The album ends with a suite of inter-linked songs, a sort of Western medley that ranges from Box Wolf's echoes of Be-Bop to Yo La Tengo left field rock on Trailfire to Spokane's narcotic theme tune to an imaginary Western, all calliope organs and dust devils, like Calexico minus the cheesiness. While most side projects tend to indulge whimsy and misjudgment, oRSo show that you can produce something vital and experimental yet still hugely enjoyable.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001