Osso Exotico,
Church Organ Works
(Sonoris, 1998)

Osso Exocita appears to be a loose affiliation or collective of experimental music-makers, although David and Andre Maranha appear on all of their releases to date and Bernardo Devlin and Patrician Machas on most of them. They've been recording since 1990, demonstrating at the very least the willingness of their members to play a variety of instruments. Here, the Maranhas and Machas are let loose on two church organs, and they turn in pleasingly distinctive and interesting performances.

The overall feel is fairly minimal, though this is hardly minimalist, and the fact that most of the tracks are refreshingly shortish gives these improvisations and compositions (the balance is unclear) the quality of little studies, exercises which take small ideas and work them through with care and attention. Sometimes they make much use of repetition -- of which David Maranha seems particularly fond -- but at others they seem to simply allow the music to drift, in a measured and rather stately way, from one end of the church to the other.

Each half of the disc -- one from Lisbon, one from Marvila -- contains at least one solo by each participant (except Devlin, who provides vocals on one track only) plus one duet, with the disc climaxing with a six-handed piece which spends nearly quarter of an hour exploring slowly unfolding, often dissonant harmonies. This deliberate slowness is a big part of what this disc seems to be about, and it makes it a nicely ambient disc which, like all the best of that sort, repays closer listening as well.

On the strength of this release, the Osso Exotico ethos seems to place a high value on simplicity. These are rarely barnstorming performances, being rather egoless and being likeable for all that. The music is uncomplicated, unpreposessing and largely rather quiet, sometimes utilising ambient sounds which are just as prominent as the organ itself. They're not a well-known group (one release on Staalplaat seems their best shot at fame and fortune) but perhaps they deserve a little more recognition.

[ by Richard Cochrane ]