Review Summary: Trippin' in the woods.
I’ve come to find that the hallmark of a strong instrumental album lies in your ability to get lost in it. It’s about having plot where there is no story or setting where there is no description, being gripping in harmonies and rhythms and steering towards a place of self-imagination. The post-rock greats understand this, of course, laying down the melodies for nigh apocalyptic bleakness or having a hand to hold on a cold night. Yet they are never telling the full story. They can grasp the innate need to make their music as close to a full-fledged narrative as possible, without overstepping their bounds and overwhelming the listener with intrusive details. It’s within this risk, this necessary soft touch, that Woodsman operate and generally succeed on their self-titled LP.
From the get-go, Woodsman
is structured in a very psychedelic headspace. “Rune” is grounded by firm tribal drumming, with delay drenched guitar cascading down and drenching the music in syrupy uncertainty. We see this same style again on “All Tangled Up”, but instead of delay it’s a more synth heavy atmosphere, erasing prior misgivings and encouraging hope. Conversely on the off-kilter “Healthy Life” and dual-drum attacking closer “Teleseperation”, we see riffs become the focal point, leading a more precise course while keeping true to the floating feeling of the rest of the record. Purely from a does-this-sound-good perspective the album is exceedingly tight. Each song is a snippet into a beautiful mini-mindset, a state that lends itself gorgeously to late night stares and early morning drives. Yet sometimes these mindsets aren’t clear enough to stand apart.
Woodsman hasn’t completely grasped when to give more and when to take a step back. Songs like “Gravelines” and “Loose Leaf” have a very similar feel and execution, to the point where telling them apart would be quite the task. Additionally the track “Obsidian”, which is considerably more down tempo than the rest, is afflicted with an almost incomplete feel, separating itself only to stick out as a sore thumb rather than a shining example.
Taking the step away from psychedelic alternative rock and embracing the instrumental side of things isn’t an easy task. The thoughts behind songwriting change and fresh ideas are quite a bit harder to come by. For the most part, Woodsman
steers clear of the pitfalls that make most of the modern ventures in the genre redundant and boring, but they still haven’t captured the complete picture of what is possible in their sound. Looking forward, more diversity should be strived for and fully realized in order to alleviate some of the repetition problems. The majority of the record, however, stands as an outstanding example of the potential that still lies within post-rock as a genre, and why we shouldn’t be giving up on it just yet.