AN ODD ENTRANCES by Thee Oh Sees
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Favorite Tracks: “You Will Find It Here,” “The Poem,” “Jammed Exit”
It would be easy to argue that California-based, garage and psychedelic rockers Thee Oh Sees have built a legacy of abrasive, defiant and mind-bending musical output over their 17 album career. Just recently, on their stellar 2016 LP, A WEIRD EXITS, the band cemented and refined its masterful execution of head banging, ear-melting sonic soundscapes. However, avoiding sound stagnation and subverting expectations, the band have released their 18th studio album, AN ODD ENTRANCES, a mere three months after the release of A WEIRD EXITS, both of which were spawned from the same studio sessions. The result is a shockingly subdued, free-form experiment when stacked up against their raucous discography. It certainly acts as a showcase of the group’s musical versatility and varied palate, though the tight focus of their earlier works is partially missing.
A press release for the album on its label’s website, Castle Face Records, touts AN ODD ENTRANCES as more of a “morning listen” than an “evening,” more “contemplative” than “face-skinning.” Compared to the band’s recent companion album, this identification of a more tranquil experience rings true, by Thee Oh Sees standards anyway. The second track, “The Poem,” seduces with a harmonious accompaniment of guitar, violin and cello, a far cry from their pit-inducing cuts from days past. It’s a gorgeous ballad that would not feel out of place soundtracking a peaceful sunrise.
Though the general tone of the music is some of the most serene in the band’s history, it still would not be a record by Thee Oh Sees if there were not a few sly, sinister emphases throughout. The opener, “You Will Find It Here,” begins with the paranoid sounds of skittering drums and twitching guitar plucks, which transition into assured guitar riffs and ascendant drum beats, accompanied by a lumbering, climbing vocal delivery. It serves as an engaging introduction to the record, as it takes you on an uncertain journey that melds into the heavenly sounds of “The Poem.” “Jammed Exit” takes the listener back into the depths of Thee Oh Sees’s stranger inclinations, with its soothingly water-y synth plops and eccentric flute accompaniment, contrasting favorably against the pristine arrangement that preceded it.
However, after the first third of the record, pacing and consistency begin to become an issue. “At The End, On The Stairs” is a playful foray into the style of crooning ‘60s pop contrasted against grim lyrics, but the following track, “Unwrap The Fiend, Pt. 1,” is a fairly plain instrumental which doesn’t add much to bolster the record’s theme of tonal duality, also not managing to be anything that we haven’t heard Thee Oh Sees do before. This leads into the closer, “Nervous Tech (Nah John),” which is a low-key eight minute jam that includes repetitive drums and an occasionally exhilarating guitar melody that’s hard to latch onto before it sputters out. Disappointingly, the album ultimately ends without fanfare or flourish.
Despite the inconsistencies of AN ODD ENTRANCES, it is definitely not without merit. The album is replete with adept musical variances, the mood feels wryly self-aware, and the listening commitment is minimal at a 30-minute running time. Long-time followers of Thee Oh Sees will find enough to sink their teeth into on this release, while new listeners would be better off giving the band’s last LP, A WEIRD EXITS, a shot before taking the jump over to this more self-reflective sibling.