The versatility of a guitar amazes me. That one instrument can offer a soft strum and a deafening roar, or that its strings can be plucked one by one or carved with a sharp bow, makes the guitar invaluable to music. More fascinating is the musician who knows how to manipulate his instrument, making him just as versatile as the object he handles.
Having spent years in a slew of San Francisco-based noise-rock bands — and most famous for his work with the Coachwhips, also on Narnack — John Dwyer uses his OCS (Orinoka Crash Suite) side project to soften up, opting to pent up his punk predilections in favor of acoustic folk recorded in his preferred lo-fi standard. Whereas the second OCS release (released last year and appropriately titled 2) was a collection of slightly scattered noise rumblings and experimental folk from a two-year recording period, 3 & 4 (two albums packaged together as a double-disc) are complementary, tighter and more straightforward. With Patrick Mullins handling some of the percussion this time around, Dwyer can focus on his guitar work and singing, the latter of which is oft a faint whisper — a major contrast to his sassy “mi-mi-mi” on the last three Coachwhips records.
There isn’t necessarily enough variety here to fill two albums, 3 & 4 suffices as a prime showcase for Dwyer. Rather than become a third- or fourth-rate version of something that’s been continuously done — much like the post-punk trend of the last year — Dwyer appears to be directly influenced by blues and folk musicians of the early twentieth century. The weakness of 3 & 4 is that it doesn’t provide the visual proof that he retains the soul of a punk rocker despite his ability to channel the past. Without a live image of Dwyer drunkenly swaying in his chair and brushing his side-swept hair from his eyes with the hand of a heavily tattooed arm, it’s less evident on 3 & 4 that he’s closer to a next-generation Billy Childish than a Mississippi John Hurt or a Woody Guthrie. Regardless of the style he chooses, John Dwyer is just as malleable as his musical medium of choice, and with Mullins on hand to provide fitting accompaniment, the latest additions to his collection merely add to a pleasantly expanding library.