[one_half]As if he weren’t busy enough cranking out records with the Oh Sees, making weird electronic albums as Damaged Bug, and co-running the prolific Castle Face record label, John Dwyer needed another outlet for songs and sounds, so in 2017 he brought the OCS name back to life and released Memory of a Cut Off Head. OCS was the early incarnation of the Oh Sees, making lo-fi and experimental records before the band evolved into a garage punk juggernaut. Memory of a Cut Off Head doesn’t revert back to the scruffy, sometimes off-putting sound of those early records; instead, Dwyer and co-conspirator Brigid Dawson take a step away from the pounding power of the Oh Sees in favor of something hazily psychedelic and expansive, a little bit folky and rustic, with every nook and cranny filled by a wide array of instruments meticulously arranged into something that would make the Incredible String Band sit up and take notice. On a batch of songs that retain all the hallmarks of Dwyer’s other work (giant hooks, seesawing dynamics, and intense lyrics delivered with a gleeful punch), the duo stacks violins, harpsichord, cello, and keys on top of restrained guitar, bass, and drums, with Dwyer dialing his vocals down to creepy most of the time and Dawson providing lovely harmonies. She also steps to the front on a couple songs that would make Kendra Smith proud, “The Fool” and “Time Tuner,” as well as an oddly sunny psych-pop tune, “Lift a Finger,” that ends the album on a cheerful note. She and Dwyer fit together like a warped hippie version of Lee & Nancy, or George & Tammy, each complementing the other perfectly. Her contributions show that she should definitely start working on her own stuff soon. Really, they should both work on more OCS music soon, since this album is a trippy, spooky delight.
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