Part conscious trip amidst a hyper-real world.
Delving into a Wooden Shijps album is like being Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap. Taking a drastic step into an unknown place that might be better or worse than where you left off. It’s always different and frequently in the past, and once you’ve been there, you know you can never go back to how you were before.
The band has always been an interesting concept in retroactive modernity. Formed back in the mid-2000s in San Francisco as a part-time project of Moon Duo frontman Ripley Johnson, who determined to bring together a band of non-musicians to play avant-garde jams. Four albums later and numerous global tours for the better, their heady sound has amassed an ever-growing band of followers and leads us to their latest release V.
The album opens up like a Pacific beach wave, enveloping you in its midst with an undulating rhythm and warm fuzz. The sounds are overlapping and gracious to the listener, and the only way to tackle it, is to dive right in. Accessibility and their playlist-potential are clearly not concerns of the band. Album opener 'Eclipse' begins with an incessant beat, but with an apparent lack of pop song structure or hooks, it takes the form of one long continual jam. A form continued throughout the album.
Whispy, dreamy vocals and soaring lead guitar drift into view, before fading quickly back to the foundation of fuzz and synth lines, that after just a few minutes begin to intoxicate and subdue. Lyrically, the listener can choose to delve into the themes of modern America and California wildfires, or simply sit back and let the vocals wash away like the rest of the flowing sounds. Occasionally spikes of a heavy drum line or guitar section shake the listener back to the present, but like that wave, the moment is short and before long, the sound slopes back to its steady pace. The album, for the most part, is concise, considered, and natural. A sound this laid-back can only be heavily laboured in its creation. And all for the better of the audience.
Lazy comparisons to 60’s psychedelia are only partly true, for this is something more. Sure the palette might be easily recognisable, with smacks of Arthur Lee’s Love and The Band, but their 6+ minute jams feel more like Can, or some obscure Captain Beefheart sans vocal. It’s the sound of Wooden Shijps operating freely without the confines of worrying about how they are received or whether a certain track deserves to stand out. Maybe it’s that exhibition of 60’s freedom in essence that most shines through in the album, but whatever it is, the sound is a welcome dose of part-conscious daydreaming in a hyper-conscious world.