Wooden Shjips
Back To Land


4.0
excellent

Review

by Voivod STAFF
November 10th, 2013 | 28 replies | 5,503 views


Release Date: 11/12/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Repetition is bliss.

During an interview for the album Catch 33, one of the most mind bending albums in the history of music, Sweden’s Meshuggah were asked by Metal Hammer Greece whether they had a blast in copiously reproducing the complex and abstract patterns contained therein. Of course, the question was rhetorical. The Swedes responded by emphasizing the importance of repetition in conveying the listener out of the physical boundaries of his perceivable surroundings. On a whole different note, Lou Reed (R.I.P.) condensed the semantics of his rock song writing approach by merely saying: “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz”. Although both parties come from totally different musical backgrounds, they seem to agree on one thing: repetition is bliss.

With their turn, Portland/San Francisco based psychedelic rock outfit Wooden Shjips have been endorsing the previously mentioned principle since their formation in 2006. After a few vain participations in bands of no particular interest, guitarist and classic/psychedelic rock enthusiast Erik “Ripley” Johnson came up with the idea of forming a rock band whose line up would be comprised of non musicians. The rules of conduct couldn’t be simpler: music should be kept as basic as possible, the droning/noise elements of outfits such as Velvet Underground should be thrown to the mix at variable amounts, while the element of repetition should be projected on all future explorations with respect to the oceanic ‘60s/’70s rock music literature.

The band’s eponymous debut aligned perfectly with the said directives, combining the droning/noise effect with late ‘60s rock, whereas on the sophomore effort Dos things became more upbeat and transcendental. Whereas the first two albums were tracked in home/rehearsal studio environments, the third one, West, was produced in a proper studio and signified Wooden Shjips’ excellent first attempt in expanding towards mainstream rock and more conventional song structures. While each song was upgraded from the previous state of one-to-two-chord improvisations, the album seemed to be comprised of two partially blended parts; the upbeat and fairly diversified part, and the drone-ish, psychedelic counterpart. In contrast to its predecessor, the fourth Wooden Shjips album, entitled Back To Land, comes to homogenize in full, all the characteristic attributes of the band into a sunny and relaxing psychedelic rock jam.

Back To Land kicks off with the eponymous track, which is representative of the album as a whole. The tone and the noise levels of Johnson’s rhythm guitars have been lowered down considerably, in terms of sound production. In doing so, Wooden Shjips succeed in making their material as easy listening and cool as possible, and tread on the trails of acclaimed artists such as Tom Petty. In the majority of the album, the rhythm guitars have been given a sound texture that could be easily associated with that characteristic “winding” noise that cassettes used to sound like, after heavy playing. The implemented riffs, on the other hand, are faithful to the vast inheritance of ‘60s/’70s rock in a strictly minimal and “unitary” manor, whereas the same apply for Johnson’s "shy" vocals, the rhythm section of Jermier/Ahsanuddin and Nash Whalen’s keyboards.

The lead guitars, on the other hand, are the album’s nominal means of improvisation, and while Johnson is delivering a seminar in note austerity, his leads are as essential as they can get. Be that as it may, the album’s diversity can be also ascribed to its tracks listing order, as not one of them is of the exact same mood as the next one. In that light, the drone-y space rock Wooden Shjips have been always known for, is evident in tunes such as “Other Stars”, the enticing “Servants” or the Beatles-esque “Ruins”, but not at the heavy dosages prescribed for Wooden Shjips and West. Moreover, the drone tracks serve as a bridge of smooth transition between the upbeat (“Back To Land”, “In the Roses”, “Ghouls”) and the more subdued (“These Shadows”, “Everyone Knows”) anthems of the album.

The importance of Back To Land lies in that Wooden Shjips came up with a differentiated way of expression with respect to their past work, while conforming fully to the directives the band identifies with. Moreover, the album can serve as an effective means of mental (or other) stress relief for those who will care to come around it, and this is not a figure of speech.



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user ratings (16)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2013



6067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Album stream - http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2013/nov/04/wooden-shjips-back-to-land-album-stream





Constructive criticism is most welcome.

Digging: The Sabbathian - Ritual Rites

Underflow
November 10th 2013



2561 Comments


I was expecting another Eli review. Pleasant surprise.

Underflow
November 10th 2013



2561 Comments


Well, as usual, this is an excellent review. Nice.

alachlahol
November 11th 2013



7489 Comments


good band but please dont mention meshuggah alongside them ever again! no matter what point youre trying to make!!

alachlahol
November 11th 2013



7489 Comments


and what are you talkin about sayin this band is treading on tom pety cause theyre easy listening and cool??

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013



6067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

good band but please dont mention meshuggah alongside them ever again! no matter what point youre trying to make!!

Why not?

Music is all about strange "highs" and strange "lows" man, for me at least.


and what are you talkin about sayin this band is treading on tom pety cause theyre easy listening and cool??

The obvious, that Wooden Shjips like Tom Petty and used some of his vibes in their new album.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013



3393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I listened to this a couple of time, it's really cool. Excellent review!

Digging: Amplifier - Mystoria

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013



6067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks man.

As I write in the closing paragraph, this album acts like a sedative for the mind and the body.



In an interview for The Quietus, Erik Johnson said that the feedback from fans in that respect is really encouraging.

Q: Have you had any interesting insights into what you think psychedelic music is for; above and beyond sound tracking teenagers getting high or whatever.

A: Well, I think it’s about getting you outside of your normal space and transporting you away from it. And the profound things I hear from people reflect that. Someone told us, “My son has disabilities and it’s difficult for us to raise him, I put on your record and it eases my pain.” And you think, “Wow”, if you hear something like that. We’ve had two people say something… one of them sent us a video actually. One of Moon Duo’s songs, ‘High Over Blue’ is a side long track, and he had a baby that just would not stop crying and when he puts this record on out of the blue the baby stops crying and when it ends the baby starts crying again. He made us this video of it. He said, “You saved my life!”

http://thequietus.com/articles/13565-ripley-wooden-shjips-interview



JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
November 11th 2013



20616 Comments


I like what I've heard from these guys. Will check this one out soon.

Digging: Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt

conesmoke
November 11th 2013



5205 Comments


Great review voivod. might have to check these guys out.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
November 12th 2013



7333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds like something I'll enjoy. Will listen.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
November 13th 2013



3393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I listened to the record again at work today, it's really good. They found the best chords to drone and the vocals are really cool. I have to listen to their earlier stuff too.

Psychedelic music can be really liberating, since it has no boundaries.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 13th 2013



6067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Start from the debut Raul and go all the way up or you can go the other way around too :-D

Great band, they had come to Athens, Greece a few years ago, but I didn't know them back then.



insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
November 13th 2013



3393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That's great, it means they'll most probably be back in Eastern Europe next year. I'd like to catch them live! I'll take it the other way round lol, I like West's cover.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 13th 2013



6067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Wooden Shjips come often to Europe, so the chances of us catching them live are quite high I reckon.

They are currently touring the US east coast, so Europe's next I guess.

http://www.songkick.com/artists/569763-wooden-shjips

West is awesome, I had it in heavy playing for quite a while and I was going to write something about it, when I found out about Back To Land.

So, I kindly asked the lords of Sputnik to intervene and land me a promo and here we are.

apokolypz
November 13th 2013



292 Comments


cover reminds me of led zeppelin III

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
November 14th 2013



3393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The lords of Sputnik are highly helpful when it comes to lesser known bands, since promos are very useful when leaks are non-existent. I had seen Wooden Shjips at the similar bands section on Samsara Blues Experiment's Sputnik page and I always said I'll check them out. Never did, until the new album found its way on the internet.

I saw the session at KEXP and it blew me away. They sound as good as on tape there.

Mad.
November 14th 2013



3785 Comments


Listened to some tracks from this, was a bit boring for me :/

Digging: Anubis - Hitchhiking to Byzantium

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 14th 2013



6067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, at first everything may sound a bit "flat" and some time and listens are necessary to get acquainted with the album, but it is a grower, for me at least.

Mad.
November 14th 2013



3785 Comments


It's mainly the vocals I wasn't keen on, it's like he's not really trying



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