Reviews: Thee Oh Sees, Dirty Projector's Olga Bell

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Thee Oh Sees, A Weird Exits

Expanding their lineup with a second drummer, Thee Oh Sees are allowed to stretch their sound and release one of their most cosmic, trippiest records yet. As opposed to preceding records, half of these songs are under the 5-minute mark (with one of those songs as an instrumental, anyway), and the title and placing of the third track, “Jammed Entrance,” shifts the album after two of the more song-oriented tracks. But that’s not a mark on “Dead Man’s Gun”, where Dwyer’s staccato vocals contrast with the guitar assault (with the “WOOH” war-cry preceding each one), or “Ticklish Warrior,” which is heavier: Dwyer’s vocals are a shout this time, and distortion drenches the march-like guitar riff. As always with these guys, focus/lose yourself to the sonics: the keyboard blip-melody over the incoming swarm of “Jammed Entrance”, the ringing guitar interval of “Plastic Plant”, “Gelatinous Cube”’s sudden drop into a quieter (but not calmer) section. And the album ends with the longest and slowest tracks: “Crawl Out From the Fall Out” is 8-minutes of thick, psychedelic haze (with backing vocals adding an airiness to Dwyer’s vocals), while the organ-drenched “The Axis” starts on Earth and the ruptured solo (it bleeds) shoots for the stratosphere before crash-landing. Just because they slowed down and stretched out doesn’t make their music any less heavy. B PLUS

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Olga Bell, Tempo

Listened to this with absolutely nothing to go on except the cuteness of the cover, only to discover that I was listening to an artist who had joined Dirty Projectors in 2012 (not surprising — her vocal style, specifically, the unpredictability of the melodies, recall the Projectors), and more importantly, that I had stumbled onto one of this year’s best albums. This sounds like club music, but experienced from outside the club: the dark pulse of the arpeggiated synth of “Ritual” (recalling the Knife’s “Silent Shout”), outsourcing the diva vocals to Sara Lucas to give us a 90s’ house song; the hip-hop hype-woman that appears in the middle of “Power User” (the album’s best song); the bursting “Randomness” (check out the celestial melody introduced in the coda). Those are the headiest songs, but even “Dippio”, “ATA”, and “Stomach It”’s ”yeah”’s seem sourced from mainstream tropes, but not in a way that’s parodic; wherein an Russian-born artist tries to approach and understand them on her own terms. Even songs that aren’t so charged are worthy of our attention, either for her vocals or some other worthwhile detail: the mental breakdown of “ATA” (“Am I dead? Am I? Am I? AM I FUCKING USELESS?”); the sludge-crawl bass of “Zone”. And closer “America” is a delight: the absolute unease of the pre-chorus (“Is that what you fear? That you’re not forever?”) to the way she sings the title’s word and the song shifts from darkness to a chorus of color. If you read nothing else in this paragraph, consider this: anyone who can take an experience as extraverted as dancing and bring it into her own (or your) introverted world is worthy of our attention. A MINUS