OCS - Memory of a Cut Off Head 2LPCastle Face
It is easy to forget (especially amidst the ringing of ears and aching of muscles after a typical Oh Sees show) that initially, OCS was a rather hushed affair. After the minimalistic brutality of Coachwhips, the band was the diametric opposite corner of John Dwyer’s musical world, quiet to the point of whispered in the wind, buffeted by the airy whirr of singing saw, soft and strange. Those early records especially had a rather contraband hush about them, as if the party had gone on all night and continued into the morning and everyone’s raspy from talking too much and agrees to whisper and pantomime as they watch the sun come up over the hills.
Since then of course, things got gradually louder, faster, crazier...the band evolved into the Oh Sees everyone knows. For the 20th Oh Sees release, 100th Castle Face title, and 20th year doing it, Dwyer re-examines the quieter roots of it all in particularly baroque and homesteadly fashion. Memory Of A Cut Off Head was co-written with longtime collaborator and vocal counterpoint Brigid Dawson, recorded in total in Dwyer’s own Stu Stu Studio, and it’s lush, sumptuous in texture, but satisfyingly retains the gentle grace of the early stuff. There’s beautifully executed strings throughout, courtesy of Heather Lockie’s fine arrangements, horn arrangements courtesy of Mikal Cronin, and they even brought back the old saw—Patrick Mullins, that is—on saw and electronics. A return and a refinement of old forms, a few solemn meditations on life lived at high velocity, perhaps a respite from it…a softer side of JPD and distinguished company.