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Osso Exótico + Z’EV - Osso Exótico + Z’EV

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Artist: Osso Exótico + Z’EV

Album: Osso Exótico + Z’EV

Label: Crouton

Review date: Jul. 25, 2008

Performers, album, and song all bear the same name in this beautiful, long-form exploration/meditation. If this means it's a one-time arrangement, too bad. The musicians have found a common space and focus that results in psychic harmony, if dissonant sound.

Both elements of the collaboration have been recording for decades. Z'EV began his experimental percussion work in the '70s and along the way has played with pretty much everyone in the downtown scene. He performs mostly on instruments he makes himself and is heavily influenced by Kabbalah, though this is not obvious in his instrumental work. Osso Exotico is a Portuguese trio whose membership has changed over time. They have been performing composed music on unusual instruments since 1989. The current lineup is André Maranha, David Maranha and Patricia Machás.

Few instruments used are recognizable. Z'EV sometimes uses conventional technique, smacking cymbals and gongs, but when he doesn't, his contribution melds with the eddying feedback drones of the others. Sometimes one hears a manipulated spinning CD, perhaps. Other elements resemble distant animal calls or warbles, but their origin does not ring a bell. The result is a coherent flow of short, treble drones highlighted with metallic jabs and underscored by resonant bass breaths. This is punctuated by interludes of rough, digital noise, orchestral feedback, and solo cymbal washes.

Perhaps the best element of this music is the way it feels both composed and improvised. Z'EV's contribution, often bowed and banged cymbal, seems certain to have been improvised, while Osso Exotico may be playing composed music, as is their history. One isn't sure this is the case, but their playing seems too measured and structured to be pure improvisation. Of course, many years playing together may mean they can tap into each other's souls to produce a self-organizing musical plot. In any event, the course the music takes is stimulating and absorbing. Without words, a story, or perhaps a landscape, develops.

By Josie Clowney

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