Review Summary: It may sound like a mess of senseless padding, but Woodsman testify that they are simply coloring outside the lines with all hues available to them.
There’s something rustic and down-to-earth about the way Woodsman take natural and organic sounds and filter them through a kaleidoscope of acidic manipulations, creating a watery atmosphere that is both surreal and palpable. The rolling hum of babbling brooks, abandoned wind chimes, and chirping insects are all recreated here through the instrumentation and caught in a mesh net, composed of various fibers in which the band draws influence from. Though their previous albums have been free-flowing and mindlessly droning, Woodsman make sure to compartmentalize their thoughts on "Rare Forms"
, that is, as much as you can when you're a band of savant eclectics. They certainly know how to start off an album on a cinematic note, as “Insects” balances the perfect amount of intrigue and weirdness with its slowly layering loops, bending atmospheres, and rigid drumming. It’s on the second track where Woodsman show that they're not afraid of stretching out into post-rock parameters. “Dead Awake” sort of fades in and out of consciousness, potentially continuing on into eternity until the band decides to fade out just before attention begins to wane.
As the album continues, Woodsman put all of their influences together into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously, sometimes resulting in mundane half-baked clattering, and other times, forming into insatiably interesting concoctions. They’re never tapped down to one approach, instead, there’s a bevy of options available depending on the song’s required tone and mood (which freely fluctuates between euphoric post-psychedelic trips, and nightmarish acid flashbacks). Scatterbrained, they trudge into unknown territories, such as the avant-garde “Spectral Creatures”, and the afroasiatic “Beat the Heat”. Though they smatter in these different styles, it all comes together in a confusing mess of charming authenticity. The sound is definitely Can-esc (that is, if filtered through the panoramic view of Stanley Kubrick) as the band slowly pans over various soundscapes riding liberal waves of echo and flange. The drumming is algorithmic, complemented by effervescing bass lines and shimmering synths that not only emulate Can, but actually challenge them for the throne of eclectic and modal psychedelic krautrock.
It’s easy to see where their influences come from, besides the aforementioned Can. The band mingles together the sounds of Animal Collective (not only through the Avey Tare-esc vocals, but also in fervent tribal stomps such as “Future Pulls”) and Sonic Youth (such as on the vivacious “Inside/Outside”). Though there are distinct landmarks of influence throughout “Rare Forms”
, Woodsman never sound like a saccharin imitation, unlike their more myopic contemporaries. The only problem arises when their lenses go out of focus and they’re left following a loose, sprawling, mental blueprint of what the songs should sound like. While this unfocused nature may turn off listeners hopping to have a consistent mood set, there is salvation to be found in the exciting and outlandish territories in which the band covers. Perennial jams continue until the band reaches epiphany and allows the songs to come to an end, though along the way, they allow their influences to boil and froth over. While not all melodies stick, the band is at least always playing with your sense by insisting that repetition remains in the background while improvisation takes over the foreground.
While in no means a perfect album (it could use more body and less drone) “Rare Forms”
is one of the most authentic and interesting listens I’ve had in a while. Though instinctively pop, they gather up the residue that most psychedelic bands tend to eschew and use that to augment these otherwise derivative songs. It may sound like a mess of senseless padding, but Woodsman testify that they are simply coloring outside the lines with all hues available to them. For as far reaching as their sonic meshes go, there’s always a core of solid groove weighing the songs down, keeping them grounded and preventing them from flying off into formless oblivion. Dream catchers of distressed spirits can’t emulate the sense of alluring mysticism as well as this album does.