Posts Tagged ‘Thee Oh Sees’

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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Warm Drag – “Cave Crawl”

Warm Drag’s first single slinks out of the gate, coating everything in its path with an ooze of psychedelic excess and basement lounge sex appeal. The band is comprised of Paul Quattrone, who’s done time in Oh Sees and !!!, and singer Vashti Windish. Blending the aesthetics of his respective resume entries, Quattrone is building guitar psychedelics on samplers, dropping fuzz-choked guitars and synths echoplexed beyond their breaking points on top of pounding beats that have him referencing The Bomb Squad’s production. The whole thing is tied together with a low-slung twang that gives things a touch of Western futurism – soundtracking the watering holes of lone gunmen preening through dystopian housing blocks.

Windish, for her part, bursts onto the track with a confidence and cool that is palpable. She’s wrapped Quattrone’s beats and dusted twang around her arm like a mic cable and her vocals seem to twirl the whole track in a practiced precision that’s almost bored with its own show of skill. How this all fits into their upcoming album for In The Red remains to be seen, but it’s a good first look for sure. Paired with remote control happy barrage of images, the video and track are a damn fine freakout that’s built for clubs that skew less bottle service and bros and more leather and blacklight.



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RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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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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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 – “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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Design Inspiration: Jason Galea

This is the second installment of RSTB’s look at the influences that drive the designers behind some of my favorite album covers. Stepping up to the spotlight, Jason Galea opens up about some favorite album covers that have influenced his style. Jason is the designer behind pretty much anything visual that’s connected to Aussie psych warriors King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, plus The Murlocs and the Tame Impala side-project Gum. Galea has also done all of the band’s insane video work and kicked in on a few great Aussie garage comps including the Nuggets comp compiled by Lenny Kaye. The first thing that drew me into King Gizz back when 12 Bar Bruise came out was the artwork, and the triple gatefold on Oddments ranks among my own favorite covers. Its truly using the LP format to its full potential. Below are Jason’s picks that span some recent garage gems and and plenty of psych oddities.

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Best of 2015


Its been a long year at RSTB and though the pace may have been slower on the face, there has been lots going on to be sure. Next year marks our 10 year anniversary and we’ll have a new look shortly, so stay tuned. There will also some other fun things to mark the anniversary as 2016 wears on. But enough of the future, let’s look to the past. Here are my favorites of 2015, as usual in no particular order, along with a mix of tracks.

Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven (BUY)
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (BUY)
Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up (BUY)
Young Guv – Ripe For Love (BUY)
Sir Richard Bishop – Tangier Sessions (BUY)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (BUY)
Wand – Golem (BUY) // 1000 Days (BUY)
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (BUY)
Ben Chatwin – The Sleeper Awakes (BUY)
Mikal Cronin – MCIII (BUY)
Twerps – Range Anxiety (BUY)
Future Punx – This Is Post-Wave (BUY)
Sean McCann – Ten Impressions for Piano and Strings (BUY)
The Mantles – All Odds End (BUY)
Barreracudas – Can Do Easy (BUY)
Peacers – Peacers (BUY)
Love Axe – South Dakota (BUY)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons (BUY)
Fuzz – II (BUY)
Sauna Youth – Distractions (BUY)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love (BUY)
Swiftumz – Everybody Loves Chris (BUY)
Rabit – Communion (BUY)
Holly Herndon – Platform (BUY)
Herbcraft – Wot Oz (BUY)


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