Thursday, 25 July 2013

Band Case File: Wooden Shjips

Ripley Johnson playing
his Eastwood Airline 3P.
Can space-rock also sound earthy? Listen to Wooden Shjips, the linchpins of the current San Francisco psychedelic scene, and the answer is definitely in the affirmative. The band's three albums show a great example of how Sci-Fi synthesisers, fuzz drenched guitars, driving bass-lines, pumping drum beats and reverb'd vocals can come together to make the freshest sounding space rock in years.

The facts about the band you need to know:

Who plays what?:

Ripley Johnson(second from left) - Guitar and Vocals
Omar Ahsanuddin(far left) - Drums
Dusty Jermier(far right) - Bass
Nash Whalen(second from right) - Keyboard/organ

Where do they come from?

San Francisco, U.S.A

What is their specific style?

Psychedelic rock, but more specifically, drone and space rock.

For fans of:

Their labels?

Their main labels include Holy Mountain, Thrill Jockey and Sick Thirst.
Some of their less used labels include Subpop, Mexican Summer and The Great Pop Supplement.

What have they released?

3 studio albums: Their self-titled debut(2007), Dos(2009) and West(2011).
They have also released several 10 and 7 inch vinyl singles, as well as two tour albums pressed only on vinyl.
In addition to the albums mentioned, Wooden Shjips have collected said vinyl singles onto two albums, 'Vol.1' and 'Vol.2', compilation albums which are more widely available and are available on formats such as CD and digital download.

(For a more complete Discography go here)

Time for the important part, the music; some of my personal favourites:

Black Smoke Rise from the album West (2011).

A Great track with a rhythm guitar so dripping with fuzz; it's enough to make your eyeballs melt! Also note the great backing synthesiser melody, which fattens up the track and really gives it a feel of elevation. Stick around until 1:27 for a soundscape seemingly comprised of laser beams which have been gathered, allowed to build up energy and then re-released as sound using just a Farfisa. It is safe to say, the sonic soloing from Nash and his keyboard, is enough to make up for the belated hypnotic mangling of Ripley Johnson.

Flight from the album West(2011).

Another stunner from the same album as Black Smoke Rise. This ethereal track once again taps into ideas of weightlessness and levitation, whilst at the same time showing the bands interest with themes and motifs such as exploration, an interest they have cited before as an inspiration behind West. The album taking it's name from the idea of the first white American settlers moving West to explore the Americas.

Down By The Sea from the album Dos(2007)
A song from Wooden Shjips that really lives up to their name, sailing down the river of your consciousness and dropping anchors at the heart of your mind. Much like a ship(or in this case a Shjip) lost out at sea on a stormy night, this track starts calmly and unsuspecting, going through 2 minutes and 48 seconds of peace before even the first note of a solo is played. Continuing with the sea metaphor, the track proceeds to slowly work its way up into a insane fuzz frenzy, much like the increasing wrath of rain, wind and thunder of a monsoon on a cold winter's night. This volatile, orgiastic solo progresses to dominate the rest of the song for the tracks remaining seven minutes, really making you feel as if you were in the centre of a storm, superb.

Just some other stuff worth knowing:
- Wooden Shjip's guitarist, Ripley Johnson, is in a great psychedelic two-piece, Moon Duo.
- The band have appeared at the AustinPsychFest, which is run by The Black Angels.
- Wooden Shjip's have a fantastic show on KEXP, currently on YouTube.
- Nash Whalen uses AceTones and Farfisas to record with, vintage organs that he processes     electronically. Onstage he plays an Alesis.

By Dan Sharman, 21:36, 25/07/2013.

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