Saturday, April 21, 2007

Good Vibrations

The Oh Sees, Sucks
Blood, Castle Face

This music, these people...offer
nothing but proof that songs
...and sound for that matter...can play us as instruments.
--Dave Sitek, TV on the Radio

***** ***** ***** *****

Although Sitek didn't produce the fifth CD from the Oh Sees
(formerly Orange County Sound or Orinoka Crash Suite—take
your pick), he was behind the boards for last year's The Cool Death of Island Raiders. His band has also toured with them.

They don't sound much like TV on the Radio, but I can
see why he likes them. I do, too, which is surprising, be-
cause John Dwyer (vocals, guitar) hails from the Coach-
, and that Bay Area band never did it for me.

Then again, if I'm not mistaken, Brigid Dawson (vocals, per-
cussion) has played with Lavender Diamond—at least that's what
the press notes say; I haven't been able to verify that connection
yet—and this quartet sounds more like them than the 'Whips.

Just imagine a gauzier 'Diamond as fronted by the ghost(s) of
Syd Barrett. Jigmae Baer (drums) and Sweet Petey Dammit
(guitar) complete the line-up. The first three OCS records, in-
cidentally, were Dwyer solo efforts (LD drummer Jeff Rosen-
berg, Dwyer's partner in Pink & Brown, guests on his debut).

For the most part, this is pret-
ty narcotized stuff. I have a high tolerance for that. For those who don't, it'll all prob-
ably sound rather aimless and attenuated, but I like the slow and quiet as much as the loud and fast. (Same for movies.) If anything, I need records like this to help me unwind, and I find the combination of brushed drums, theremin, and saw very re-
laxing indeed. Granted, I have no interest in music so mellow
it puts me to sleep, and the Oh Sees dodge that bullet handily.

Dwyer and Dawson, who often sing in unison, compete with the
feedback that ebbs and flows throughout the record. Consequent-
ly, it's hard to make out the lyrics. Sometimes I can tell what they
are singing, sometimes not. With neo-psychedelia, that tends to
work best. I don't want to hear every word, since I'm looking for
an experience more than a story or collection of stories. Maybe
the stories are compelling. I'll have to listen more closely to say
for sure...although that sometimes leads to disappointment.

For now, I'm enjoying Sucks Blood in much the same way
I've been enjoying Greg Ashley's Painted Garden. Is psyche-
delia coming back into style, or have I just been out of touch?
(Most likely, a combination of the two.) I've always been a fan,
so I'm digging this resurgence. As long as the acts continue to
avoid sounding like carbon copies of the psych heroes of yore,
I'm all for it. Theremin lovers: meet your new favorite band.

***** ***** ***** *****

Endnote: The Oh Sees
play the Vera Project on 6/2.
Incidentally, I often complain
about cover art that isn't quite
up to snuff. I'm sorry to re-
port that Sucks Blood falls
into that unfortunate cate-
gory. The front features an
unappealing illustration, but
the back is a winner. It's simply a snapshot of a work of embroid-
ery, but I find the image—a tiger surrounded by red, orange, and
blue flowers—quite pleasing. (Must be the Henri Rousseau fan in
me.) For more information about The Oh Sees, please see their
MySpace Page. Images from the AMG, MySpace, and Promonet.

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