Drone-psych quartet sharpen their focus.
Though San Francisco's Wooden Shjips technically released two proper albums and two collections of singles and offcuts (Volume 1 and Volume 2) before signing to Thrill Jockey, there's no real difference between those four records: recorded casually in the quartet's rehearsal space, they're loose, jammy, medium-fi explorations of the middle ground between fuzzy late '60s psychedelia and the drone-driven aspects of European experimentalism. For their first Thrill Jockey release, the group have tidied themselves up just a touch, recording in a proper studio with an outside producer-engineer (Phil Manley of label mainstays Trans Am) and even getting the resurgent Sonic Boom to master the finished tracks. That small hint of polish turns out to be all that was needed to finally bring Wooden Shjips into sharper focus: this is easily their best work so far. The group's marriage of Crazy Horse and Neu!, with a Velvet Underground's worth of reverb just to round things out, hasn't fundamentally changed; those who don't care for Wooden Shjips' shambling grooves-before-hooks aesthetic may find these seven lengthy songs unfocused. But West's slightly cleaner sound reveals greater depth and variety than before, from the rattlesnake percussion and needling organ of the punky "Lazy Bones" to the way "Looking Out" uses Suicide's electro-rockabilly beats as a jumping-off point for the album's trippiest guitar lines.
|Black Smoke Rise|