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Wooden Shjips - Back to Land (2013) review

Wooden Shjips "Back to Land" (Thrill Jockey, 2013) 

Wooden Shjips, San Francisco’s neo-psychedelic hippy-dippy pirate band have been around long enough to be the centerpiece of hazy inspired legends, half-truths, and enough rumors to fill Owsley’s chemistry set twice over ... so, let me set the story straight, or perhaps fuel the fires and fan the flames of these high flying midnight musical alchemists.

Now ... given the right atmosphere, you might get vocalist and founder of Wooden Ships, Ripley Johnson, to admit that back in 2003 he was still on the hippy trail, not in search of fortune or fame, but for musicians who could share his vision for crafting acid laced tunes filled with distortion in much the same vein as The Velvet Underground had done ... though replacing the speed induced edges with a softer more melodic trance inducing trippy haze.  And while he wasn’t necessarily looking for brilliantly talented musicians, those are exactly what showed up on his doorstep, talented outcasts of the music industry who’d been raised on lo-fi droning sojourns into the nether regions of the subconscious.

As luscious and enticing as their previous releases have been, Back To Land sees the band pulling together all they’ve learned, and creating one of the most cohesive hallucinogenic bodies of work you’re ever going to treat your wayward ears to.  The songs move together, they rise with the sun and set with the moon, though not always in that order ... and if you happen to stumble onto their acoustic version of “These Shadows,” you’ve just added an extra day to your week.  But what separates this release from their others, is the length of the tracking, where each song has been crafted to clock in at around five minutes.  And what five minute sonic gems these are, proving that capturing the essence is always rewarding, and certainly allows for expansive gestures while preforming live.  Here, Wooden Shjips don’t weigh you down or bake your brain into submission ... Back To Land gives you room to breathe, and a chance to raise your head into the clear air of the stratosphere before diving headlong into the narcotic laced psychedelic waves and wobbly-headed loopings that are so very satisfying.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2014
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