OU – Pisces Crisis

Spoot Music

Ersilia Prosperi: composer, trumpet, flugelhorn, ukulele, background vocals; Sabrina Coda: alto & soprano saxes, background vocals; Martina Fadda: lead vocal; Luca Venitucci: piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3 organ, background vocals; Claudio Mosconi: bass, background vocals; Cristiano de Fabritiis: drums, kalimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, background vocals; Amy Denio: vocals, alto sax, production. (On “C’è La Crisi” only: Jim Knodle, Lesli Dalaba, Sam Boshnack: trumpets; Barbara Hubers-Drake: tenor sax; Mark Smason: trombone; Joseph Sheedy: baritone sax)

The name indicating the egg in the Sardinian dialect, Ou – founded in 2012 by Ersilia Prosperi – is a sextet precisely divided in two halves (three women from the Mediterranean island, three men from Rome). To the aged ones among us, “Egg” could hypothetically recall the namesake Canterbury ensemble, and somehow I know that these musicians’ souls are not indifferent to the enthrallment deriving from the visitation of that era’s neighborhoods. Forget about Dave Stewart and cohorts, though, for the agile arrangements featured in Pisces Crisis also reflect the “smilingly bitter” sarcasm of artists who – despite the relief given by their experiences abroad – are inevitably tired of inhabiting the sickening universe of Italy’s systematic contradictions.

Sonically speaking, think of a lightweight version of Carla Bley (rightly quoted in the album’s CD Baby page as an indirect reference) with the addition of the naïve emotions – always permeated of depth – of entities such as the never enough lauded Aqsak Maboul. Make no mistake: these superficial equivalences are not implying that Ou are mere imitators. A cumulative identity is clearly in sight as the band’s choice of attempting to convey optimistic vibes gets tangible during the playback. Pygmy chanting embedded in structures of RIO rootage; short yet rhythmically charged “urban tribe” snippets defined as “Ou Hymns”; poly-idiomatic verses. And I really appreciate the sense of melancholic thoughtfulness characterizing my favorite tracks: the opener “Wok” – a small gem indeed – and the final “La Stanzetta”, constructed as a refined lullaby beginning with a contemplative ukulele solo and continuing with contrapuntal discreetness, lyrics sung only at the end. All of the above contributed to render this listening experience an exquisite parenthesis of alleviation, Prosperi’s pomposity-deprived knowledgeable views in this sunshiny orchestral daylight a veritable treat.

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