John Dwyer’s Osees recently released their 23rd LP Protean Threat. Not only is the band prolific in their output, this new record also covers a wide variety of genres and styles from noise rock, to psych rock and punk. They frequently add in sounds and textures that are out of left field, changing up the conventions of established genres, making for a very engaging listen.
The record starts with tracks that have seemingly no defined structure. Opener “Scramble Suit II” feels like a noise rock track from a sci-fi universe a hundred years ahead of our time. White noise and abstract timbres replace the traditional guitar sound, in a mind bending ride that takes inspiration from a Philip K. Dick novel. “Dreary Nonsense” follows in the same vein with clashing frequencies that fight for presence in the mix, accompanied by stabbing bass lines and groovy drums. It’s weird and provocative, and has given me moments of ASMR.
Just when you think you know what you’re in for, the band evolves and constantly throws curveballs right before your eyes. “Terminal Jape” is dystopian post-punk nostalgia, filled with harsh textures and rife with imagery that illustrates oppression of freedom in a world like our own: “All adults must line up / Your visage must be chronicled”.
I’m also pleasantly surprised to find Krautrock heavily represented in this record. “Wing Run ” finds pleasant synth waves and flourishes over a steady motorik beat. “Canopnr ‘74” runs over a similarly pulsating bass and drum with space-rock flourishes. “Red Study” also has that steady droning beat, albeit the highlight of this track is its wailing synth horns and twangy guitars that oscillate like a colorful Rorschach test that constantly moves.
But wait! There’s more. “Said the Shovel” is a disco-tinged funk extravaganza that will give you a peek of what’s inside a lava lamp. “If I Had My Way” is surf rock in a scrappy garage, where the strings are all rusty and the amps ooze with grime. “Toadstool” and “Gong of Catastrophe” are both prog rock mini epics that take a steady and refined pace, a huge difference from the opening tracks. The former makes use of wah-guitars, buzzing square waves and stabbing vocals. The latter is a space western, one where the mariachi band is replaced by cyborgs with battery-powered horns, guiding their troops to an upcoming battle.
This is truly a monumental album, one that you can sink your teeth in for hours and still get more excitement out of it. Osees is clearly unrestrained from boundaries or conventions, making them one of the most innovative bands in psych rock.