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CASTLE FACE RECORDS

Just as you begin to get comfortable with something, the rug is pulled from under you. Very recently, John Dwyer and his band Oh Sees released their newest record, the monolithic psych opus Orc. This release represents the 19th album under some amalgam of the name Oh Sees/Thee Oh Sees/The Oh Sees, OCS, etc. Wasting no time, John Dwyer presents the 20th album (in the 20th year of the band's existence), ‘Memory of a Cut Off Head’ (out 17/11 on Castle Face), returning to his roots as OCS.

It is easy to forget (especially amidst the ringing of ears and aching of muscles after your typical Oh Sees show) that initially, OCS was a rather hushed affair. After the minimalistic brutality of Coachwhips, OCS was a diametric opposite corner of John’s musical world, quiet to the point of whispered in the wind, buffeted by the airy whirr of singing saw, soft and strange. Those early records especially had a rather contraband hush about them, as if the party has gone on all night and continues into the morning but everyone’s raspy from talking too much and gradually agrees to whisper and pantomime as they watch the sun come up over the hills. Since then of course, things got gradually louder, faster, crazier...the band evolved since then into the Oh Sees everyone knows. For the 20th Oh Sees release, 100th Castle Face title, and 20th year doing it, John re-examines the quieter roots of it all in particularly baroque and homesteadly fashion. Memory of a Cut Off Head was co-written with longtime collaborator and vocal counterpoint Brigid Dawson, recorded in total in John’s own Stu Stu Studio, and it’s lush, sumptuous in texture, but satisfyingly retains the gentle grace of the early stuff. There’s beautifully executed strings throughout, courtesy of Heather Lockie’s fine arrangements, horn arrangements courtesy of Mikal Cronin, and they even brought back the old saw - Patrick Mullins, that is - on saw and electronics. A return and a refinement of old forms, a few solemn meditations on life lived at high velocity, perhaps a respite from it…a softer side of JPD and distinguished company.

STAFF COMMENTS

Darryl says: Unveiling a mellower side to the Oh Sees output, John Dwyer revisits the OCS moniker. Co-written with Brigid Dawson it’s a beautifully lush and sumptuously hushed affair.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Very limited coloured vinyl edition.

The newly shorn Oh Sees waste no time in racing headlong into nightmarish battle with the mighty Orc, and wouldn’t ya know it, they’ve clawed even farther up the ghastly peak last year’s A Weird Exits stormed so satisfyingly. The band is in tour-greased, anvil on a balance beam, gut-pleasingly heavy form, nimbly braining with equal dashes of abandon and menace on this fresh batch of bruisers and brooders, hypnotically stirred into to the cauldron of chaos you’ve come to expect from, ahem, Oh Sees. Fresh blood Paul Quattrone joins Dan Rincon to form a phalanx of interlocking double drums, alternately propelling and fleet footing shifting ground to pinion Dwyer’s cliff-face guitars to the boogie. Tim Hellman keeps it swinging like a battle-axe to the eyebrows. The tunes veer towards the violence of their live shows, with a few tasty swerves into other lanes… heavy to lush, groovy to stately… throughout it remains sinister in its swaggering skulk, manic in its fuzz-fried fugues… they hit all the sweet spots the heads foggily remember, and there’s plenty to sweat over if you just hopped into the sauna. Ew. More evil…more complex… more narcotic… more screech…. more blare…. more whisper… there’s even more Brigid. Less “Thee”, but more of everything else.

STAFF COMMENTS

Darryl says: So here we are again, John Dwyer and co. hit the Piccadilly Records End Of Year Top 10 with another staggering album. So what’s changed from last year’s double header winners ‘An Odd Entrances’ and ‘A Weird Exits’? Well, having dropped Thee from their name, Oh Sees have added another drummer to the percussive maelstrom providing an interlocking double-drum accompaniment to their already impressive psych-rock groove. Of course, ‘Orc’ still provides the usual shards of cliff-face noise guitar moments, but the dual drumming has drawn out some of the songs, with extended jamming coming to the fore over the shuffling Can-esque kosmische beat. There’s gentler moments too, with the addition of vocals from Brigid Dawson on a few tracks providing a welcome balance to the proceedings before we’re off again lurching between huge bone-rattling riffs and Dwyer’s vocal screeches. ‘Orc’ is Oh Sees at the very top of their game, a magical sprawling classic.

FORMAT INFORMATION

2xColoured LP Info: UK indies only coloured vinyl. Limited to 1000 copies.

2xColoured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.


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