Posts Tagged ‘John Dwyer’

Damaged Bug – Bug On Yonkers

Every now and then we as a collective listening public need a nudge to work our way back towards the distorted genius of Michael Yonkers. It’s come in waves over the last couple of decades, perhaps making up for the string of unfortunate events that led to his once promising start falling apart. Though a sad story, its worth noting for the record. As a Minneapolis youth Yonkers started Michael & The Mumbles to play dances around his hometown and, as the ‘60s sometimes offered up, wound up netting himself a deal for Sire . This would be ’round about the time that similarly skewed sounds were being proffered up by The Mothers of Invention, The Godz, or West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Still, a pretty great windfall for a guy steadily working a wall of noise into his sound and modding out instruments in ways that wouldn’t catch on for some time. However, the luck ended there. Somehow the deal with Sire went sour and to make matters worse Yonkers broke his back working in a warehouse a few years later leading to a lifetime of pain and limited use.

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Oh Sees

At this point in their career, nobody’s gonna tell Oh Sees not to be free. The band’s entering their fifteenth year, give or take (if you count the OCS material), and Dwyer and his consortium have been consistently building psychedelic pyres only to torch them each season. Not a band can yowl through an Echoplex without the “Oh Sees Sense” going off these days, yet somehow the band still manages to push their sound further from those initial seeds of garage with each record. This time the band delves further and deeper into the waters of prog than they ever have previously. Sure, there’s always been a touch of the exploratory crawl and plenty of psychedelic jetsom, but this time the band’s cradling their jams in a fog of organ ripple ripped right from Greg Lake’s cutting bin. They’re tossing in a space ooze that’s sliced clean out of the Miles/Ra/Cherry vein, letting drops of scattered noise sluice through the cracks of their shredded sensibilities.

Over the last few albums the band has embraced longer runtimes, but here they close out both LPs with crushers that push in excess of 14 and 20-minutes respectively. They don’t waste the space, either. Both tracks push Oh Sees out of their panicked pacings, layering in downtempo modes of Gong and Amon Düül II between the flashes of freaked-out guitar, punk sputter, and motorik pounce. It is, admittedly, a lot of album. The full runtime clocks in around an hour twenty, so this is more of an undertaking than a light listen, but Oh Sees embrace the journey, pushing the listener through chapters and changes – a prog mindset without necessarily ascribing an overarching theme. Sometimes the harder hitters pull away from the squirrelled weirdness. I’m always going to cue up a track that squirms or seethes like “Together Tomorrow,” or “Scutum & Scorpius” over the frantic fangs of “Heart Worm” but they make it all stitch together without missing a seam. Overall, another set of cavernous crawlers from Dwyer and co. that cement their status among the top-tier psychedelic pantheon.



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Oh Sees – “Poisoned Stones”

Another dosed droplet from the upcoming Oh Sees confirms that the band is headed ever further down the prog wormhole and it suits them just fine. “Poisoned Stones” is a shorter shakedown than the previous taste of Face Stabber, but its no less packed with tumbling drums, yowling guitars, and shell-shocked keys than the epic run of “Henchlock.” The band augments their psychedelic pursuits with a video locked into an 8-bit battle with reality. The clip’s a third-eye thumper that fits the song’s chaotic crunch quite nicely. Check the clip and look for Face Stabber (side note: how did it take Oh Sees all of seventeen albums to hit on Face Stabber as an album title?) on August 16th.



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Oh Sees – “Henchlock”

Its that time of year again, there’s a new Oh Sees album on the horizon and cinder and smoke on the wind. The band follows up their punishing LP Smote Reverser with the rather excellently titled Face Stabber on August 16th. The band is the latest to lead with more than the listener can chew, offering up no bite-sized singles an instead bracing for the album’s release with the 21+ minute closer “Henchlock.” The song is a massive organ & sax slasher, with no darth of John Dwyer’s guitar-scuzz pyrotechnics. The band’s never really stopped crushing the garage-psych axis and this is documented proof that Dwyer and co. remain the perennial authority on how to build an empire of sound. Lock in and fuzz out to “Henchlock” below.



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Oh Sees – “Clearly Invisible”

Its quite possible that Oh Sees never rest, never sit still, and never let the feedback die down. Off of a tour and LP from last year (and with the inevitable new one coming sometime in the next year) the band lays down a single-track one-sided EP bonus for the fans. Seems that Dwyer and the band are as ardent Simply Saucer fans as I am and they’ve worked up a live in the studio cut of a Saucer jam from the fringes. “Clearly Invisible” existed purely as a live cut within Simply Saucer’s world and hearing John and crew tackle it with the intent to further dive into the sonic supernova is exciting. The track’s all tension, a nearly 15+ minute build of menace with crisp-fried guitar noodles topping it like a holiday casserole. The track touches the Hawkwind totem and seeps out into the furthest expanses of cosmic brain fry. While its probably best as a fan piece for completists and psych warriors, rather than an entry into Oh Sees chamber of psychedelic wonders, that’s not to diminish the impact of this limited gem. Wrapped up in the stunning photography of Martin Oggerli, this one begs the question of whether your Oh Sees shelf can squeeze one more.



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John Dwyer on Eddie Harris – I Need Some Money

There have been a few artists that remain the cornerstones of RSTB coverage, and without a doubt those are ones I’ve had on the wishlist for the Hidden Gems feature since it started up a couple of years back. Teetering near the top of that list has always been the madman John Dwyer. Thee Oh Sees have spanned 20 releases now and show no sign of slowing. Dwyer’s seared psych has always shown nods to some deeper cuts in the ’60s canon, and his latest LP stripped things back to a decidedly glycerine, serene version of the sound. I’d expected maybe a run towards that route, but that’s what keeps these pieces so interesting. Catching up with Dwyer, he gave an account of how Eddie Harris’ 1975 album I Need Some Money came into his life and the long-lasting impact it’s had on him.

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Oh Sees

Dropping an article doesn’t dampen the clamor that claws up from the very glowing soul of John Dwyer annually. His merry band’s evolved and mutated so many times that who could want to keep track at this point? We’ll shake it all out in the official biography at a later date, right? Down to four players, but using them with admirable precision, they even pull a cameo from longtime member Brigid Dawson on a few tracks here. The band’s taken a page from their kindred demons in King Gizz, kept the double drum attack and let it propel this album like a mechanical heart fed on coal fumes, nuclear fallout, and a bonfire constantly stoked with copies of Sleep’s Holy Mountain.

Last year’s A Weird Exits seemed a hard hill to top, but the band manages to dig darker, twist the knife further into the psychedelic wound and blow this out louder than Thee Oh Sees ever managed. Any lingering remnants of the garage phase of Thee Oh Sees are buried under the soil with Orc. They’re rummaging through the deepest end of the heavy psych costume trunk now and managing to make the squall take on a fresh finish. Bending German Progressive click tracks with metal rumble, breaking down into deep space eddies of calm, then sawing through them with a serrated slice of noise – everything you’ve loved about Dwyer and co. is here, but magnified and swollen to epic proportions and stuffed full of new tricks to boot.

JD has always felt like he’s processed his influences well, and it’s easy to pose that he’s cast a long shadow over several of today’s psych monsters. You’d be hard pressed to find a band working along the garage-psych spectrum that’s not as sick of the comparisons as we all are of hearing them water down John’s trademark Echoplex howl. Here though, he’s taking his own tour of heavy hitters and fitting them in a way that’s pushed this to the top of their 19-odd release stack. Weaving Groundhogs amp shredders through Amon Duul II and Hawkwind atmospherics, they graft the aforementioned Sleep bong-rattlers to towering psych-synth works that make this come off like a double-wide concept album whose theme is sonic destruction. Many have tried to knock the crown from his head, but essentially most just need to come to the conclusion that they’re not even on the same mountain.




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Earth Girl Helen Brown – “Earth Elevator”

An excellent bout of cosmic country from the always mercurial Earth Girl Helen Brown. The album this time around features quite a few familiar names – Emmett Kelley, Sonny Smith, Ty Segall, John Dwyer, Tim Cohen, and more. Simple and straightforward, “Earth Elevator” is a bittersweet romp with vocals of Heidi Alexander ringing sweet and low in your ears, a bit of twang and the barroom shuffle of drums her only companion. Better yet, proceeds from this and Alexander’s forthcoming seasonal installments will all benefit organizations of worth (this one goes towards 350.org, NDRC, Stand-LA). An all around charming start to the week to be sure.



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Oh Sees – “The Static God”

Thee Oh Sees loom large once again and the air grows acrid with the stink of sonic deluge on this one. They’re just called Oh Sees now, you say? Sure, why not? No matter what name you hoist on the masthead, if J. Dwyer is steering the ship you can count on a good dose of psych-smacked garage. “The Static God” is paced to palpitation and bursting at the stitches with outbursts of noise that seem to take a swipe through Eastern tuning. Maybe they’ve been hanging too long with the Gizzard crew. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Three things you seem to be able to count on in a given year – Gizz, Ty and Oh Sees will come roaring in and light up the husk dry timber of your soul as they channel the very vien of psychedelic furor. As much as I enjoyed the departure on Weird Exits/ Odd Entrance last year, its good to be back behind the jet engine blast of Oh Sees guitar once again.




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Damaged Bug

Though he’s spent the better part of his career fostering the yelp-rattled garage of Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer is a man of many professional tributaries. Damaged Bug arose as a more psychedelic outlet for the songwriter back in 2014 and he’s steadily used to exorcise his late night, creeping dread impulses. Bunker Funk hews close to it’s predecessor, 2015’s Cold Hot Plumbs, roiling in insistent rhythms and a whispered ominousness that hangs over the album in icy stalactites. Where it differs is in taking a literal pull out of the “Funk” half of it’s title. Dwyer augments his teeth-grit lullabies with a splash of flutes and throb bass that does feel indebted to some portion of ’70s library funk. The combination is at once future leaning and in debt to the past.

But as this is Damaged Bug, the funk isn’t the kind that’s going to soundtrack your classic Impala romp, rather Dwyer drops the listener into a psych-funk wonderland of oblique funhouse mirrors and polished brass. It’s funk as twisted through the minds of Finder’s Keepers libraries and whatever wavelength Chrome have been picking out of the cosmos for the last forty odd years. Dwyer is exacting in his need to unsettle. The record is splashed in acid blots and radiant colors, but underneath he’s bending a Cheshire smile that bears an ill will, or a mischievous one at the very least. Dwyer’s universe is an echoplexed underground and Bunker Funk drags us deeper than he’s led before. He’s leading this search party into the unknown and it’s unclear which of us is coming back.




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