Artist: Wooden Shjips
Album: Wooden Shjips
Label: Holy Mountain
Review date: Sep. 28, 2007
It’s been 40 years since the Summer of Love, and San Francisco is still the base for many of psychedelia’s finest mind-benders. While the City by the Bay may also have become home to the high-tech, it has maintained its outsider element, consistently sprouting bands interested in expanding the limits of their sounds – or at the very least providing interesting accompaniment to your next bong voyage.
Wooden Shjips appeared last year with a run of limited edition vinyl releases that whet the palate of those able to snag a copy before they disappeared. (Their debut, the Shrinking Moon for You 10” was initially released in an edition of 300 and distributed free of charge.)
The band’s sound is, on paper, not much different from that of hundreds of like-minded ego-obliterators: lengthy, krautrock-inspired grooves bolstered by amp-angrying fuzz guitar leads. Yet the band has found a fine blend of their admittedly common ingredients and the result is unlike anyone else on the scene.
On their self-titled full-length debut, the Shjips drop five tracks of throbbing hypno-groove that weds influences as divergent as Suicide and Hawkwind into a mass that manages to soothe and shred.
“We Ask You to Ride” is the most overtly ’60s sounding track here, with a three-note organ lick and spoken/sung vocals that sound like a particularly tuned-in Jim Morrison. Meaty-fingered bass lines, metronomic drumming and simple organ motifs get the proceedings swaying before in-the-red guitars – turned just a touch too high – kick things into overdrive.
“Losin’ Time” moves at a pace that could almost be called lively, though without sacrificing any of the spell-casting repetition of the opener. “Lucy’s Ride” is heavy rock haze played loud and hard with vocals groaning through a mask of echo. “Blue Sky Bends” features an appropriately epic roundhouse blues riff played to rattle teeth. Everything is steeped in reverb and blown-out speaker hum except the bass, which lumbers on as thick and warm as drying blood.
The album ends with “Shine Like Suns,” 10-minutes of kraut bliss that plays like the soundtrack for a road trip straight into the heart of an overdose.
Whatever their potion, Wooden Shjips have hit upon a sound that distills psychedelic rock influences from the Summer of Love onward into the rarest of brews: originality.
By Ethan Covey