“WHEN WILL IT END?!” is the sarcastic message I typed to my colleagues on the Digital Content Team alongside the forward of a press release from John Dwyer’s faithful publicist that announced yet another release from the prolific musician’s forever-name-changing main project OSees. It seems that every month, yet another announcement/request slides into my inbox from Dwyerland, be it new releases from his side projects Damaged Bug and Bent Arcana or from OSees-related members such as Brigid Dawson or Tomas Dolas’ Mr. Elevator. Am I mad about this, as the email to my coworkers could possibly be misconstrued? Absolutely not. Especially when, somehow, after 22 records in 17 years, Dwyer’s making some of his best music to date.
Protean Threat, the band's 23rd album and first under the latest name iteration of OSees, barrels in with the first 45 seconds of “Scramble Suit II” the way one expects an OSees record to but is in no way representative of the expansive psychedelic journey the record takes along the way. Unlike their most recent album, last year’s Face Stabber, which stayed at a consistently driving pace through its indulgently long duration, Protean Threat is a fresh, dynamic, and engagingly swift listen.
Just looking at the genres explored on Protean Threat wouldn’t necessarily seem revolutionary for OSees. Krautrock, prog rock, and psychedelic have been their wheelhouse for a while now. But the way Dwyer and co. utilize them on the new record conveys an understanding of subtleties that have sometimes been missed on prior records. Dwyer’s vocals, which have historically been muddied in a way that seems to project the idea of lyrics being an aside and unimportant to the overall agenda of OSees, are finally crisp and possibly even sing-alongable at moments. Also, four records into the double drummer lineup and the band has perfected how to utilize them in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the band. They barrel in when need be but most of the time sit in the background keeping a swift, nonoppressive, motorik beat. I dare to say it’s OSees at their most restrained and it’s completely working.
In the press release sent out as a description of the record, OSees go on a long, all-caps diatribe about how “SENSIBILITY IS BENDING EVERYDAY UNDER THE BARRAGE OF NONSENSE.” Referencing the discord and hatred that has been made apparent within America over the past few months, the band calls out the fog that’s been lifted from our eyes and how generosity, empathy, and love are the keys to combating the “EVER-MUTATING THREAT THAT IS REALITY” as well as overlords and oppressors. It’s actually a pretty powerful message but perhaps that’s just because it seems like Dwyer’s yelling at me.
In a softer, all-lowercase quote about the record, Dwyer told KEXP this:
He’s not wrong. KEXP is excited to share Protean Threat two days ahead of its release this Friday, September 18th. Listen below and also watch OSees KEXP in-studio performance from 2019.
KEXP interviews John Dwyer about championing other artists, the duality of running a label and running a band, and burnout while debating the age-old question: how many drummers is too many drummers?