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Wooden Shjips - West CD (album) cover

WEST

Wooden Shjips

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.79 | 9 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Play along with me here. Imagine putting the music of Suicide, Hawkwind, The Velvet Underground, early Can, classic Neu! and a few other proto-punk agitators into a giant cosmic blender. Add a touch of ersatz-acid seasoning, throw in a spare letter 'j' to give the mixture a taste of psychedelic Sweden, and set the speed to Liquefy.

The resulting musical soup won't be as messy as you'd think, and might in fact resemble the monochrome grooves of Wooden Shjips. The California foursome honors all of the above-named bands (and more), but their concentrated alchemy reduces each influence to its undiluted essence: a steady hypnotic beat, some dreamy incoherent singing, and more spaced-out guitar than the average psyche can handle. From a Prog Rock perspective the band is strictly a one-trick pony, but they lead that animal through quite a workout on this year 2011 release, either a short album or a long EP, take your pick.

It's a more polished recording than earlier efforts, in places ("Home", for example) sounding almost but not quite mainstream in structure. Today it stands as maybe their best, most representative album to date, stripping an already minimal style right down to the elemental bone: loud, lysergic guitar solos, rinky-dink organ chords, and an unblinking rhythm section playing with the uniformity of machines (but not played by machines: a critical difference).

Organist Nash Whalen gets his share of airtime (in "Flight" and elsewhere), and had clearly practiced in anticipation, sometimes even attempting a second chord (insert winking emoticon here). But the spotlight as always belongs to Erik "Ripley" Johnson, a seductive Space Rock Jim Morrison at the microphone and a galactic warrior with his guitar. His solo turns in "Home" and "Flight", and the backwards effects in the album closer "Rising", tap into another dimension entirely: an alternative universe where the laws of gravity and inertia don't exist.

It all adds up to 38-minutes of droning stoner rock, but performed with clearheaded intent. Prog it ain't, but if music is your mantra here's a first-class ticket to nirvana.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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