The horse is divided into sections. A portion of the body appears to have been sketched with crayon, another with magic marker, while the head has more of a cut and paste feel like the red shirted lad all too gleefully mounted in the saddle. Are the horse and rider chasing the black on orange bird or is it leading them somewhere? Why is the bird morphing into a butterfly? Exactly who is talking about a beehive, and why? The bipolar Roy Rogers cover art to Orso’s Long Time By is intriguing.
Orso (like their cover art) is an eclectic band, the sort I generally champion and slap-together shiny reviews on, spouting phrases like “this is far more daring than anything currently referring to itself as alternative on the airwaves.” While it’s true, in this case I’m forced to remind myself of the current impotency of radio and admit that this in itself really isn’t much of an accolade.
Although I love the adventurous minimalist notions behind this band I find myself unable to fully embrace them. There’s a definite boxcar-hopping tramp appeal to these songs, they’re uncluttered and create an emotional response with little effort. Sadly, it’s the same response throughout.
“Mavis” and “Alex’s Apartment” smack of early campus campfire R.E.M. The latter of the two features a slight touch of Robert Fripp in the banjo-driven changes, while “Slight Return” is a Discipline-era King Crimson song stripped to its bare components. These songs and the rest of the album, sport an earthy and somewhat weary dustbowl vibe that’s intriguing but wears a bit thin in the long run.
When a new band is fully embraced by radio it’s a given that seven out of 10 bands signed to labels in the next year will bear some sort of a resemblance to that band. Makes sense, doesn’t it? We know Pearl Jam sells, so let’s offer the public something similar and odds are it too will sell. Then, when it does, we eventually tire so greatly of that sound that we discredit the bands that originated it by lumping them in with the hacks who failed in their attempts to recreate it.
Strangely, this is somewhat the case with Orso. I realize how insane that sounds. Orso is pretty much the polar opposite of radio friendly bands like Pearl Jam in both sound and the amount of attention they’ve garnered. Still, they’re about the tenth minimalist band that I’ve run across in the last year with a similar thing going on. Bands like Dirty Three, The Radar Brothers and Salako are in the same ballpark and are a good bit more interesting than Orso. While I’d love to hear music like this on the radio I must admit that we’re getting close to a saturation point for this genre, and I hope it too doesn’t eventually turn the pallet against the taste of the bands who cover this ground well.
Orso is a rusty plumed bird that’s interesting but unable to take flight.
// Notes from the Road
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