Live Stream Review: OSEES – Levitation Sessions II

Today sees the online release of Osees second Levitation session (read our review of their first here), coming to the world live(ish) from an expansive old factory in LA. The band was due back on the shores of the UK in May – this has now been rescheduled for November this year and May 2022. Another frustration delivered by the gift that is 2021. In the meantime, we can enjoy another livestream from what is, for my money, the best live band on the planet. 

For those who are unfamiliar with Osees, they are a force of nature. Relentless psychedelic noise punk, driven by double drummers, providing the backbone for the insane warblings of frontman and guitarist, John Dwyer. He said of the show:

Osees pine for our fans and friends out there in the world, so we have come together for another stream with the mighty Levitation. I’m quite happy with how this one turned out. If you had told me a year ago we’d be doing these streams now I would have thought you were crazy, but, egg on my face and here we are. I’m so glad to have this little thing to share a moment with y’all until we can meet face to face on the field of battle again.

I decided that in order to make the stream feel as realistic as possible I would follow some key steps. I set out early to take the train halfway across London to sit in a park for several pre-show tins. For the show, I insisted that my partner stood immediately behind me to ensure an authentic view of the centre of my lower back, occasionally elbowing her in the ribs and dousing her with lukewarm beer from a plastic cup. Once the show was over I headed out for a midnight snack and dutifully fell asleep fully dressed on my bathroom floor. 

The show was everything you come to expect from the band. They open with ‘Tidal Wave’, a punch of straight-up-surfy-garage, which welcomes you to the inescapable wall of noise that is the current lineup of the band. Dwyer is joined by Paul Quattrone and Dan Rincon on drums, Tim Hellman on bass and Tomas Dolas on keys. This incarnation is now fairly well established and it shows. The dual drums are tight as you like, bulked out with powerfully repetitive bass & keys throughout, giving space for Dwyer to float over the top with razor sharp guitar and screeching vocals. 

Perhaps their best known song, ‘The Dream’, is delivered at speed, giving everyone a chance to cut loose. Extended guitar solos during the seven minute medley version, with a bassline that could be a solo in itself. Taking some time to bring things right down before erupting again in a sea of synth. A perfect example of what is so wonderful about Osees live, pure energy everywhere you look. 

It’s wonderful to see the band revisit some lesser known tracks from their earlier work. Tracks such as ‘Stinking Cloud’ and ‘Spider Cider’ really highlight how the band has grown and changed over the past decade, harking back to a lo-fi, whimsical 60’s-pop sound. 

‘Meat Step Lively’, ‘It Killed Mom’ and ‘Enemy Destruct’ with their beautifully lean garage feel serve as a wonderful contrast to the busier sound of their more recent work. ‘Snicksee’ and ‘Poisoned Stones’ bring things back up to date with a more progressive sound, dripping in Romero-esque synths. 

We get a bit more of the psychedelic side of things through ‘Web’ and ‘Encrypted Bounce’, which could be Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd operating in the late 70’s. It’s wonderful to get a glimpse into each previous stage of the band, balanced so well in one set. Osees have been ever evolving, partially due to personnel changes, meaning they are a band who have never grown stale, even with an insane output of material. 

The set is rounded off with an homage to 70s post-punk heroes Chrome, playing five tracks from their first two albums.

All proceeds from the show are to be donated to five local LA homlessness charities, something close to Dwyer’s heart:

“There should be enough housing and there is enough food for all in our country but our system has been designed in a way that it can be an insurmountable obstacle to get back on your feet if you’ve found yourself without a home. It can happen to anyone and it is a slippery slope once you have found yourself there. So, any small amount of help we all can generate with groups that specialize in getting people the help they need to procure the things we all take for granted such as a job, a home, a meal, and psychiatric and general health checks, are all good causes and worthy of our time and reflection.”

The last year has certainly been one to forget, but live streams have been a necessity and it’s been great to have some shred of ‘live’ music to maintain our sanity, but for a band like Osees, there really is no substitute to a live show. With a bit of luck, Osees will be back in the UK later this year. I can’t fucking wait!

Stream of the session and download are available through Bandcamp, the vinyl is available through the Levitation site

Review by Duncan Clark

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