Osito Records Presents by Various Artists (Review)

Many of the songs on the release have a theatrical feel to them.
Osito Records Presents - Various

Osito Records is a small Norwegian record company founded by Bjørn Torjus Hansen. Before, they’ve released an album by Cerrato and the Enter Twighlight EP by Magic Pillows, and with this compilation, they seek to showcase even more of their talents. This autumn’s Osito Records sampler comes out on the verge of the release of full-lengths from several of the label’s artists.

The compilation features two songs each from La Mascara Snake, Cerrato, Alpine Those Myriads!, Daisy, and Magic Pillows. La Mascara Snake, whose debut “La Mascara Snake Goes Fishing” came out in November, leaves a strong impression with their two songs, which are arguably the best on the compilation. The band opens the comp with “The Dancefloor,” a dark and energetic romp featuring chugging accordion, piano, dissonant vocals, and a chorus of swelling big band brass. Their second song, “Art Romance,” the release’s sixth track, is something entirely different, a sweet little instrumental that begins with harp and soft keyboard. As it goes on, rattling drums, buzzing synths, and celebratory horns all enter the mix. Together, the two songs are definitely some of the comp’s brightest moments.

Cerrato delivers two more great songs with “Don’t Hide Your Face” and “Clumsy.” The former is a dark, icy song featuring dual vocal duties from lead singer Maria Cerrato and her male counterpart, while the latter sounds a bit less sorrowful with breezy guitar and a poppier sound. Cerrato is probably the label’s biggest name, and understandably so; their melancholic pop songs are the most accessible on the comp.

Nothing before or after on the comp sounds quite like what’s up next, though. The distinctively-named Alpine Those Myriads! comes in with the fourth and fifth tracks on the release, two wildly weird songs from their debut “Yr Royal Jetlag Gospel” that defy categorization. “Love Is A Fascist Invention” begins with droning organ and whimpery vocals before being taken over by westerly acoustic guitar and ascending piano. It continues along sounding like a fairly traditional song, and a good one at that, but the song soon drops off into a spoken word by Daniel Johnston about love, only to change directions once again as the last half of the song shuffles along with sparse piano and clarinet notes.

“My Untamed Split” begins with remnants of the spoken word and piano from the previous track, along with distorted vocal warbling. The song gains momentum after a minute or so, with a rumbling beat and theatrical, wavering vocals, tossing and turning like a stormy sea. From there, it changes directions several times, going from maniacal singing and crashing piano to a sorrowful acoustic ballad before reaching the end.

I’m not sure if any of that made sense, and to many, the songs themselves won’t, either. Theatrical, bizarre, pretentious, avant-garde, pompous, schizophrenic — these are all words I might use to describe Alpine Those Myriads!, but whatever it is, it’s unique. It’s exactly the kind of music one might expect from such an odd-looking duo (check out their pictures on the Osito Records website). Daisy continues with the theatrical nature of Alpine Those Myriads! with her cabaret, gypsy music pop.

Frode Helberg of Magic Pillows contributes his vocals on “The Waltzmeister,” a fun song that rollicks along with waltzing piano, and on “Purple Umbrella,” Daisy sings about dressing up as a man with her purple umbrella. Definitely quirky, with the dramatics of a song from musical theater, Daisy’s music is an acquired taste, and how much you like it will probably depend on how much you can tolerate musicals.

The compilation is topped off with two songs from Magic Pillows. First is an updated version of “Her Sunlight Trap” from the Enter Twilight EP, a lovely and mellow song with trickling piano and acoustic guitar carried by Frode Helberg’s wavering vocals. It has a laid-back, almost southern country feel to it, and it’s one of the nicer tracks on the comp. “Bells” is a slow, hymnal song with reverberating guitar and chimes. It drags a bit, but gets more energetic towards the end, when it builds to an upbeat climax of chiming bells, chirping guitar, and bass.

Many of the songs on the release have a theatrical feel to them, particularly in the vocals, and I think if anything, it’s the vocals that will polarize most listeners. Magic Pillows’ Frode Helberg, for example, quivers and wavers and on “Bells,” when his voice reaches dramatic heights, it sounds a bit excessive at times. The vocals on Alpine Those Myriads!’ tracks, often drenched in melodrama, especially can seem to go overboard. If you can put up with the vocals and theatrics, though, there are plenty of good things to find on the compilation. Hopefully, it will attract more attention to the small Oslo label, and encourage listeners to check out all the new releases.

Written by Richie DeMaria.