Posts Tagged ‘Oh Sees’

Osees – “Dreary Nonsense”

What kind of year would it be if there wasn’t a new Oh Sees (now it’s Osees, I guess) on the horizon? I wouldn’t know what to do. The tides would be off. At the very least, the axis would slip a few degrees on the ball of dirt and water we ride through the cosmos. The band’s latest, Protean Threat is preceded by the short, but cratered track “Dreary Nonsense.” The cut bursts out of the barrel with a full force blow of guitar and a squirm of keys that’s constantly crushed into new and more uncomfortable positions over the course of the track’s brief tenure on your speakers. It shies away from light, bears its fangs and leaves a light laceration before retreating into the walls of weird once more. From the sounds of things the new LP is bound to let even more blood than they do here. Check out a rehearsal for the LP captured live at Zebulon in March. Protean Threat is out September 18th, naturally from Castleface.




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Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network – “Is The Season For New Incantations”

Among the picks on my Best of 2020 (so far) list last week was the smoldering debut from Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network. The LP showcases the Oh Sees member front and center, crafting a hybrid of lounge, darkened shadow caster psych, and jazz scars with the help of Sunwatchers, Mikey Young, Shayde Sartin, Mike Donovan, and a few other friends with likeminded leanings. The album opener is a dark patch of sky that heralds ominous clouds and turbulent waters ahead. She’s paired the track here with a prog-tipped video that’s flipping through Roger Dean landscapes and etched with runic signatures of unfathomable meaning. Though perhaps director Arturo Baston can better surmise. He cites inspiration “from alchemist transmutation circles to meditative sacred geometry. Mystic, occult, and spiritual graphic devices adapted and mixed all together to illustrate the relation between the forces of nature and the stupid human lust for power.” If you’ve yet to let this one grace your ears, I’d recommend setting that right soon. The vinyl arrives mid-July.

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Mr. Elevator – “Sylvia”

Been slowly sinking into the environs of Mr. Elevator’s latest batch of psych-pop and its finally taking hold. The band, anchored by Oh Sees’ Tomas Dolas, swims in the same magenta-hued waters that float recent releases by Morgan Delt, Jacco Gardner, or The Paperhead. Organs obscure the folds of “Sylvia,” filling the song with shimmer and shine that’s locked to a propulsive beat. There are underlying elements are ripped from the kind of Library Music burbles that filtered through the end of the ’60s and they work nicely with the intrigue-laden video for “Sylvia.” Dolas gives some insight to the track / vid below.

“Without giving too much away “Sylvia” was inspired by a book I put off too long to finally read. It was also one of the songs on the record that I was thinking about cutting because it just didn’t feel right. We ended up keeping just the drums and taking a different approach to it redoing everything else around it. It was the last song to make it before turning everything in to get mastered. The intro that happens now is the tail end of a portion of a drum fill from the intro that ended up getting scrapped. The video was done by Logan Feser, a video artist who recently moved to LA who also did a video for us on our last record. We were back and forth on ideas and I proposed a sort of short film idea and he came back with a whole script and cast/props and all that he put together!“ The band’s on a West Coast tour now. You can catch ‘em at the following dates.

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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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Oh Sees

So, here we are at the crossroads again, another Oh Sees album has hit the table and its time to weigh in. I feel like most of these reviews run down as check in to say: “yeah Dwyer’s still a singular force in garage-psych and we should all be grateful.” There’s always some sonic shift worth noting, though, so here goes. After last year’s double bill, two album exploration of slippery psych, followed by an exorcism of their acoustic roots, the band is charging ahead heavier than ever. Don’t believe me, just check that cover. There’s a demon enshrined in fire. Things don’t get much heavier than that before you break out corpse paint and an organ made of bones. Sonically, Smote Reverser is pulled apart by rhythm, thanks in no small part to the double drum setup of Paul Quattrone and Dan Rincon. Naturally, as you can imagine, once you go double drum its time to get serious with the prog touches, and that’s just what the Oh Sees damn well do. They brought in Tom Dolas for some keys on last year’s mellow meltdown Memory of a Cut Off Head but this time he’s going full Keith Emerson with triple stack complexities that burn hot enough to iron that Yes patch on your threadbare denim vest.

To be sure, these touches all set the stage and dress things nice, but what were all here for is the 300-mph wormhole shred of John Dwyer and for that Smote Reverser does not disappoint. There’s plenty of acrobatic string slinging, punctuated by Dwyer’s now trademarked echoplex howl. His riffs bite at the void and dissolve into effects explosions that cascade through the speakers with a molten growl. The record’s not just heavy though, its nimble too – Dwyer plays guitar with a restless soul, seemingly amusing himself as much as us, the listeners. Still this isn’t the one note heavy hammer that the cover makes it out to be. It’s not all dry ice, devil horns and ear damage. While they turn up the screams to hardcore and bring down the heat on “Overthrown,” they just as easily knock the atmosphere down to simmer for the openings of “Last Peace” and “Moon Bog.” The band knows that without time to breathe, there’s no way to appreciate the sweat.

Without question its another quality Oh Sees LP and once more it seems the game is Dwyer trying to outdo himself with each record. So, as with every release that comes hurtling down from the psych asteroid the band occupies this is an essential addition of weight to your no doubt bursting Oh Sees section on the shelf. The heads already know and the rest better catch up or be left behind to soak in the Sulphur smoke trailing behind Smote Reverser.



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OCS

As Castle Face rightly points out in any mention of this album, it seems that in all the amplifier fallout that John Dwyer has amassed in the past decade, people forget that the seed of Thee Oh Sees was a much more acoustic vision. I remember seeing “the guy from Coachwhips” at a show many years back in NY club Rothko (RIP) and trying to get people to hush the constant whinging about when Ted Leo was coming on. Dwyer was still banging the project into shape, but his presence was as indelible then as it is now. Revisiting the hushed ambiance, but with a hefty bit of vision and refinement under his belt, this version of OCS is again acting as a respite from John’s more flammable works.

This time the ramshackle folk is replaced by a loving ode to ’60s chamber folk records. Strings yawn underneath the hushed bedtime pop of Dwyer and longtime Oh Sees companion Brigid Dawson and the compositions skew heavily to the lush, yet mournful. The love of this era of psych has peeked into the band’s catalog but never taken center square until now. There are shades of Subway, Nick Garrie, The End, Susan Christie, and Sunforest flickering into view as we ease into this new incarnation of the band. As the record progresses impressions of The Free Design and The United States of America surface as well, but it’s clear that the synthesis of influence on this can’t be pointed at any one band. It’s a true divination of the murkier side of the ’60s. This is the sound of someone getting frustrated with searching out a certain sound from the crates and just doing it better themselves.

Dawson acts as the perfect melancholy specter on the album, with her veiled delivery sitting Shiva for the hearts of a hundred crackled ’45s. The bench on this record gets even deeper though, with Mikal Cronin chipping in a full horn workup on some tracks and those note-perfect strings, courtesy of Heather Lockie’ (Spiritualized, Sparkelhorse, Cory Hanson) making all the difference here – pushing the listener into a deep, lush vista of sound. There’s even a few breakdowns from original member Patrick Mullins, driving this into Soft Machine territory. The record’s probably not a pickup for the casual Oh Sees fan, maybe not even the devout, if JD’s scuzz is what you crave. But for those of us who are always looking for more candlelit visions of bittersweet warble, this is a nice gift. If you were charmed by Cory Hanson’s excursion into similar territory then you’ll feel right at home here. Honestly, even if you do usually come for the fuzz, maybe just sink back into this one and cool off.



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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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Flat Worms – “Motorbike”

Following up a couple of solid singles on Volar, L.A. trio Flat Worms jumpstart the anticipation for their album proper with “Motorbike,” a two-ton fuzz whollop of a track that’s fueled by adrenaline, squelch and rumble. Pounding the pulse as hard as any cross traffic lane zagging, the song is too much fun not to crank on repeat for a good 5 or six rounds. If the rest of the album is even half as ripped as this cut, then its another win in the Castle Face column for sure. Need more reason? Sure you do. Members have spent time as part of touring bands for Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Kevin Morby and Wet Illustrated.




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