Missing Links: Oh Sees – Orc

There are a lot of blank spots in my musical background. Empty slots in the bookshelf left by classic bands I’ve never been pointed back to or contemporaries that I’ve just passed by. This is probably due to my spastic choices of music, as I pick and poke my way forward I always end up missing some choice morsels on the carcass. However, this does have one benefit in that I keep finding exciting surprises when I expect them the least, like for example, Orc.

Depending on how you’re counting, Orc is the twentieth (!!!) album from the current band that happens to have John Dwyer in it, or as it was released, the Oh Sees. The reason I seem to be dancing around semantics is because this band has also gone by OCSThe Ohsees, The Oh Sees and Thee Oh Sees. Psychotics, clearly, who can’t let a person have a straightforward album collection.

Leaning back over to the blank spots I mentioned earlier – this band is one of them. I had heard of them in passing but always passed on for whatever reason. As such, I’m taking Orc completely at face value, with no history or predisposition to the band. I don’t know how this album fits in with an established sound, or if it’s derivative of older albums. I don’t need to know any of that though because god damn, this album has got the juice.

The Oh Sees have been known for their frequent dalliances with multiple partners and unlike other bands in the same space, they aren’t as simple as a melding of influences into their general “sound”. Styles change track to track, fluttering between sounding irritatingly familiar and achingly unique, but somehow the entire LP keeps the vibe consistent the whole way through. Oscillating from High on Fire worship (“Animated Violence”) to 70’s stadium prog (“Cadaver Dog”), stopping off at some early 60’s psychedelia (“Keys to the Castle”/”Jettisoned”) and burning out the filter with modern electronics (“Paranoise”), there is a marked delineation from track to track that has no right to sound so cohesive.

This album is also notable for the fact that it’s the first time I’ve had an “ah-ha!” moment realizing there are two drummers and I’m not just nuts. However, the dual-skinned assault is much more subtle than say, The Melvins, with one drummer filling in backgrounds while the other paints in the fore. Even without knowing anything about the band you can tell this is something put together by veterans, there is a certain tautness to the whole affair, a lean and muscular professionalism that’s apparent everywhere from the carefully timed guitar freakouts to the ambient violins and languid synths.

Orc is a technicolour monster, a rainbow-hued and glittering beast that dragged itself up from the sewers in the middle of a bustling city square. On its hands and knees and breathing laboriously, pausing briefly to hack up a glob of pearlescent slime as a crowd of onlookers gathers. People shuffle closer to get a closer view, voices go quiet, vague murmuring ripples through the crowd. “What is it?” they wonder aloud, confused at this inexplicable creature in their midst.

The orc slowly gets to its feet; body shimmering a thousand colours, breath crystalline in the air. The crowd shuffles back in fear, leaving one young girl standing inside the slowly expanding circle. She walks to the orc, it looks down upon her but doesn’t respond, still dripping a foreign ooze to the sidewalk. The girl reaches the beast, leans down and drags her finger through the growing puddle of slime. Sticking the finger in her mouth and straightening up, her eyes go wide. Popping her finger out she smiles and turns to the crowd.

“It’s okay everybody, it’s just rock ‘n’ roll.”


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