OH SEES: Orc
The Oh Sees (formerly “Thee Oh Sees”) are nothing if not ridiculously consistent, and their new album, “Orc,” goes a far way in proving this point. For the Oh Sees, it’s like blindly throwing a dart and always hitting the target — excellence is the norm. Not to mention, John Dwyer really knows his shit: the psychedelic, the rock tradition. The spirit is always alive. The band’s new track, “Nite Expo,” is majesty and light. It’s a drive down the freeway at midnight. It’s adventure and mystery. “Keys To The Castle,” another great track from the album, feels like the album’s centerpiece. It offers its listeners eight minutes of enchantment, of multi-colored smoke clouds and ascendence — close your eyes and levitate! Meanwhile, “Drowned Beast” is bombastic. The monster appears in all its grandeur, and then kneels to look its prey in the eye. It smiles to reveal its sharpened teeth, and then devours you whole; the voyage through its stomach is a kaleidoscopic voyage to death. The Oh Sees are only prestige and illustriousness. This is all of the flair, all of the fire and spark. The skies are illuminated, the sword is pulled from the stone — Rock!
JACK COOPER: Sandgrown
The world is in a crazy place, and it is almost as if we have been driven wordless. The track “North of Anywhere,” a standout on Jack Cooper’s (of Ultimate Painting) new solo album, Sandgrown, begins with the lyrics “This isn’t a protest song,” to only resolve to “I need a sign.” And at this point, I feel there are no shortages of those. Cooper’s album is not one of bombast; it is of the reflection style; it is Lou Reed style blues; it is the world around you and what it is doing to you. On the track “Stranded Fleetwood Blues,” Cooper exclaims, “If I stay I disappear.” It is not looking for solutions, but it also is not dwelling on the problems — it’s moving on and surviving. The track “On A Pier Wind” is soul music; it’s the dock of the bay; a fifth of whiskey and a sandwich; a sunset drive; and it’s petting the dog from a folding chair. It’s life happening here — the story of a being and what has been. Sandgrown has a vibe, and it has a place. It’s somewhere to go to and think about those things and feel those feelings. It’s a space to be, “and when the crowd goes quiet, I hear myself again.”
Objects thrown about — broken glass — something has flown through the window! There’s chaos and confusion: It is no longer funny; it is no longer a joke — the mob is forming. “Heel,” the first song on Idles new album, Brutalism, is that moment. It is the beginning, the shit landing on the fan. In the tradition of the greats, this is the rock that evokes and invokes. It’s fist pump-inducing music. The siren-sounded track, “Mother,” plays out the disgust and the apathy; the badgering of the society; the voice snarls and the yells —“I know nothing. I just sit here looking at pretty colors!” The music drives and pulsates, and the words ring out. It is madness — this is madness — the world is making you, and the world is made. Don’t make me, I am, I am! The world is an abstract, and we are inheriting the slogans. We have been sold — dance, fire, dance, fire — and the band has ideas about progress: We are running in circles; sickness and religion and belief make us into them and this. On the track “White Privilege,” the band asks, “How many optimists does it take to change your life? None! The butler changes the light bulb, always poor, never bored.” Great, again.
SECRET DRUM BAND: Dynamics
The pulse of life, the rhythm, the beat of the street — boom, bap, boom, bap. Move to the beat of your own drummer! Well, in this case, seven drummers — Lisa Schonberg, Allan Wilson, Heather Treadway, Sara Lund, Anthony Brisson, Sam Humans and Alison Clarys — collectively creating all-drum jams with assistance from samples and prepared sounds on guitars, voice, and other instruments to create sound environments. The new Secret Drum Band album, Dynamics, is the product of these collaborations forming hypnotic, transcendental, and drum-based configurations that summon the sounds of the forest and the spirits of the land to take the listener there and beyond. The track “Kipukapuala” mimics “the chaotic and dense juxtaposition of the songs of native and introduced birds.” Meanwhile, “DaDaDa” is the product of a jam session that vibrates and palpitates, thrums and thuds. It is haunted and moving through you. Drums are the voice here. They are the accents, and they are harmonic and melodious. The movements and cadences are percussive, but they are still expressive — they are a language of their own. The progressions of “Polihale-Kilauea-South Point” simmer to a rumble that then reverberates into a groove; the snare accents a new layer of sound, a counter rhythm within a rhythm — the shades of color within a flame. “Vons Tundra” is an underwater funk where whales and merpeople transform into downtown, into flickering lights and illuminated lights in windows. There is something more sinister in its conclusion, and there are not two albums of this type. This is a singular statement, unique in nature and in sound. It is in a word: dynamic.