3 and 4

(Namack Records; 2005)

By Sean Ford | 15 November 2007

There’s a long and storied history of fearless aural nuts making endless magic from crude equipment, ranging from Nick Drake to Daniel Johnston to Billy Childish to Sebadoh to Devendra Banhart. Of course, not all those guys were/are actually nuts; it’s a pose people strike in the same way people strike a punk pose and like any other pose --- there are always various reasons for it, some utterly sincere, others highly dubious.

John Dwyer’s new album as OCS plants him firmly in the tradition of prolific weirdoes.As the mastermind behind both Coachwhips and OCS, a member of Dig That Body Up Its Alive, not to mention one half of the Lightning Bolt-esque Pink & Brown, Dwyer breathes and bleeds music. I’m sure there are more than a few Bay Area guitarists who can boast membership in at least four bands, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that few have been as consistently interesting as Dwyer. It seems somewhat fitting that some of his best and most focused work comes in a band that was originally a side project of a side project.

The swirling, unsettling double disk set 3 & 4 finds OCS (Orinoka Crash Suite) more song-oriented than on the previous set, 2004’s 2. Whereas 2 traversed long avant noise-scapes that bordered on tedious, 3 & 4 seems infused with some of Coachwhips’ brevity and direct song-writing. Still singing through his distorted, home-made microphones (supposedly made from phones stolen from hotel rooms), Dwyer sounds something like a tripped-out M. Ward or a more world-weary, beaten-down Banhart backed by metallic John Fahey-like strings or blues-tinged space-folk.

On songs like opener “If I Had a Reason,” the light guitar and wood-stick-on-the-back-door drumming and the odd distorted vocals strike a simple but effective balance. Dwyer’s work, while hopscotching through new styles as his different monikers demand, always maintains a sort of haunted Americana feel, his rusted folk tunes packed thick with a ghostly atmosphere. “Second Date” takes these elements and forms a sort of horror mo-town folk ballad, sans the doo wops. The avant effects from 2 are still there, but they’ve been sort of buried below and woven into song structures, making them at once far less annoying and far more integral, like on "Harmony & Bells.”

On the fantastic, far too short and bittersweet “I Am Slow,” Dwyer finds the perfect balance between weird and heart-rending. He whisper-sings, “Ain’t no way for me to/ hang my head / I am dead / I am very dead / Ain’t no way for me to / Get up and go / I am slow / And I’m getting older” over a softly whining acoustic guitar and a buzzing, droning distorted guitar in a strangely beautiful moment. It’s a balance he struggles to achieve elsewhere on either disc, but there is something fascinating about the many times he comes agonizingly close.

OCS started as a side project and now the rumors are that Dwyer is interested in pursuing the project more as a full time gig. If he continues to work in more and more of his Coachwhips-isms, as he has seemingly started to on 3 & 4, Dwyer may have finally found a moniker he can settle down with.