With a career now stretching to the two decade mark, a band being as generously prolific as Thee Oh Sees means that you can easily slip away for a few albums, returning later to find although they follow the same construct, they sound markedly different.
The slacker rock of 2005’s Songs About Death for example is totally different to the bluesy garage of Help four years later, but both could only come from one place. Similarly, Dog Poison - also from 2009 - adds fuzz and sludge to the garage rock of its sister album, but just two years later, the ramshackle sheen of their material up this point had been replaced with a stricter approach to song.
Since their career highlight, 2013’s astounding Floating Coffin, they’ve gradually peeled back the layers that made them so oblique. That album, alongside Carrion Crawler (2011) and Purifiers II (2012), is hugely responsible for the influx of modern day psych bands - John Dwyer's work (not forgetting that of Ty Segal) being the benchmark for those that follow the same route. Listen to anything from the likes of Pond, White Fence, The Magnetic Mind, Allah-Las, Parquet Courts, whoever - all roads lead to the work of these two artists.
Band leader Dwyer and whoever he has in Thee Oh Sees at the time (see Mark E Smith's quip of "If it’s me and your nan on bongos – it’s The Fall" comes to mind) have this casual knack of releasing excellent records - since 2011’s Castlemania up to this point it was seven, and An Odd Entrances makes it an easy eight.
This is the band's fourth long player since their 2013 hiatus, which seemed to last about eight days, and comes just months after the release of A Weird Exits. An Odd Entrances, very much a companion piece, sees them operating with a double drummer set up and a different approach to production, all of which gives their music a new clarity. More groove based than past efforts, there’s no more struggling to hear what’s happening beneath the sonic murk - these albums are as direct as a hard punch to the face.
Whereas AWE had them rocking out to their innermost Black Sabbath rock-pig dreams with snotty nosed petulance, AOE sounds like the product of long jam sessions. But this is in no way a case of 'here’s the rest of the stuff we recorded at the time' - in fact, it’s just as vital. Opener “You Will Find It Here” begins with two minutes of warm up before deliciously droning musically and vocally, Dwyer channeling Syd Barrett as the slow jam builds into some of his best ever guitar work; aggressive but calm, crystalline yet otherworldly.
The folkadelic “The Poem” is a side to Dwyer’s work we haven’t really experienced before; a drum free fusion of raga rock atmospherics, pastoral flashes of Arthur Lee and All Things Must Pass-era George Harrison. It incorporates melancholic keyboard work, strings and a nagging guitar line resulting in a lullaby for adults - a real moment of beauty. He's hinted at this side of his musical character before on "The Lens" from 2011's Drop, and like that track, it's executed perfectly.
The instrumental “Jammed Exit” continues where the previous album’s “Jammed Intro” ended. As bizarre electronic splashes and surprising elements of funk drive flute solos and acid rock synths, it's the album’s moment of, dare we say it, prog. The cutesy “At The End of The Stairs” is the LP's most overtly 60’s moment, the hushed vocals and jaunty bass coming across as a modern day lounge version of The Zombies before crunching into delicious freakbeat jangle.
This brief, 30 minute album ends with another instrumental in “Nervous Tech (Nah John)". It comes across as an improvisational piece but not without form or structure, a dirty cosmic jam with robust percussion, bassline drone, scrawling guitar riffs and distortion that would be self-indulgent in lesser hands... actually, it’s self-indulgent here, but delivered with the kind of cold precision that makes it pulsate, vibrate and thrill.
There’s a reason why John Dwyer enjoys a place on the top rung of modern day psychedelia. His reluctance to be confined to one particular sound (which makes him even more psychedelic), his nonchalant attitude towards genre, his increasing influence in leftfield rock and his skill in piecing together rhythm, chaos and calm makes him one of the most captivating artists indie rock has right now.