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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Irwin

Reviews | Oh Sees | Orc

Updated: Mar 25, 2020


The Quietus

Oh Sees break through to psychedelic superstardom with new album Orc

Oh Sees had hinted at making a concept album with the separate-but-connected construction of A Weird Exits and An Odd Entrances, but nothing quite like the intergalactic mix that is their 19th record Orc. And, the best part about it is the Oh Sees manages to make this shift while still sounding like themselves, holding true with some killer bursts of distorted guitar and psychedelic reverb throughout. Filled with caricatured vocals, high-pitched guitar solos and spacey interludes, Orc is consistently mind-boggling and ear-tingling. It seems as though the Oh Sees (formerly ‘Thee Oh Sees’) have transitioned from a consistently good jammy group into one that is brainy, brawny and innovative.

The album starts with a screeching guitar solo on single ‘The Static God’, quite literally evoking physical shock at first listen. Despite its experimental edge, Orc is still a hard-hitting rock album without doubt, kick-ass guitar solos, and spooky-hardcore lyrics (“Night freaks, speed freaks, squeeze into tight lace for god's sake go and try / prosthesis masquerade they all complain nighttime exposition!”). However, even this introductory track hints at the more groovy and eclectic interludes that give the whole record such striking dimension, with a minute-long synthy interlude two thirds of the way through. Rather than easing the listener in and out of the artsier bit, it jerks them around, ripping them out of ‘Keys To The Castle’'s hypnotic 70s slumber with nothing other than a loud, distorted guitar and drum fills. ‘Cadaver Dog’ sounds like a revamped deep cut from The Wall, and ‘Paranoise’ evokes Twin Peaks-level weird hypnosis.

The end of the album, however, is the most sonically different from the Oh Sees previous work, with ‘Cooling Tower’ seeming to take inspiration from Classics-era Ratatat as the album leans into mostly instrumental tracks with stylistically differing verses, bridges, and choruses. ‘Raw Optics’ even feels like a high-speed rock version of a musical overture, perfectly encapsulating the atypical reincarnation of the Oh Sees still satisfying garage rock jams. The resulting record is a fast, rickety, and totally exciting rollercoaster through the mind of a madman, a demon, a crackhead or perhaps whatever odd purple creature glares at you from the album’s cover – requiring a moment to catch your breath in the aftermath of it all. It’s a whirlwind, to say the least, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

The drums stand out most on the album, with a marked lack of vocals in favour of longer instrumental intros and outros throughout. Double drummers Paul Quattrone and Dan Rincon keep tempo between songs that change speeds and genres consistently, from thundering heavy rock on ‘The Static God’ to latin-sounding grooves on ‘Jettison’ to something vaguely psych-rock jazzy at the very end on ‘Raw Optics’. The success is exciting, as some fans may have been slightly skeptical after the emotional rollercoaster they experienced from awesome double-drum tracks on An Odd Entrances and A Weird Exits to the departure of drummer Ryan Moutinho to now the acquisition of Quattrone. However, the album proves the new foursome to be an undoubtedly awesome success.

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