At present the Bay Area seems to be growing into a swirling nexus of new, truly exciting indie rock music--a future that's typified by a graceful synthesis of extremely experimental and extremely pop elements. This future, long preordained by folks like Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu, has recently found a new namesake in OCS--the most-recently-incepted, if not totally new, band by ultra-prolific SF singer/guitarist John Dwyer. Dwyer, formerly of modern primitive bolt-throwing duo Pink & Brown and currently slinging noisy hash in Coachwhips, The Hospitals, and occasionally Zeigenbock Kopf, plies a much gentler and more sorrowful vibe in OCS. With a very natural collision of post-John Fahey acoustic fingerpicking, Dwyer's helium-hearted voice, and lo-fi bordering-on-noise band instrumentation, OCS's music achieves an impressive mode of experimental pop expression.
Last year's OCS 2 was a compendium of solo home-recorded weirdness from 2001-2003 which, apropos for a time-spanning construction, veers wildly between intensely tender, sparse vocal songs and instrumental jams of both the bedroom folk and drilling noise variety. A lot of moments of total beauty slice through the tape hiss, but as a whole comes off sounding like a series of interesting whims than a complete piece. OCS 3 & 4 (released in April) completely trumps its predecessor, however a marked maturation that signals the begin of OCS as a proper band. The first release to feature Dwyer's deft foil and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Mullens, the double album is far more song-oriented and emotionally focused than its predecessor. A heavy sense of constancy presides; the songs are infused with immense sadness and cloudy sickness, with a musical pallette trimmed to a lean and sharky shape.
The building blocks of OCS' music are pleasantly constricted--over the sprawl of the record, songs often feel familiar or similar, heightening the feeling that the band has tappped a bare and singular folk style. The recurrent musical elements (birdsong field recordings, dubbed-out thwack drum parts, statically cyclical guitar lines) lend OCS the bare majesty of genre forms of the past; though they deal in lots of weird/abrasive/unexpected sonic spaces, there is an unadorned clarity to their music that recalls the purest of folk blues. At times they even evoke the sort of totally affecting high drama that has been rarely heard since the pop balladry of the '50s. Even when Dwyer's wheedling falsetto is awash in junky distortions (and this is the clearest-sounding he has ever been on record), a haunted, soul-broken feeling is conveyed, often via repetitive, disembodied-of-context lyrical phrases.
Though easily lumped in with recent crossover avant folkies like ol' Devendra Banhart (due mainly to shared reference points like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Skip James), OCS are revealed upon even the slightest examination to be too unique and self-sustained a beast to need the patronage of any hype umbrella. Their music is a potent meeting of splintery, cathartic noise punk and true vine American traditionalism that--in it's own unique way--may just serve to pave the way for a particular future of indie.