Northern Transmissions reviews 'V' by Wooden Shjips

Thrill Jockey


Wooden Shjips


While so many artists often ignore the power of a great sound, it can’t be everything. For Wooden Shjips latest record, the band revel in a deep dive of amazing tones and sounds, but never let their writing push it further. For an album that can feel truly heady at times, there’s not enough variety in any one song to warrant their extended run times. Though it may be a great album to just relax and turn off listening to, it just can’t sustain much more than that.

Things kick off with a steady and psychedelic charge on “Eclipse” as the guitars slowly deform into endless waves off echo. With the bass providing a strong foundation under the band, all the melody feels loose and unpredictable, making for a wonderfully improvisational sound. Though it hits a point of monotony, Wooden Shjips slowly start to play with their writing just as much as their sound. While saxophone slowly adds a whole other layer to their wonderful jam-out sound, it’s hard not to feel like the song is meant more for a live experience than an album.

“In The Fall” takes a much slower crawl as the they slowly ooze out a deep bass tone and let the vocal fall into pits of reverb. Here they take a much more meditative approach to their explorative sound and shed away to the loud noise to make each riff feel more potent. While this focus makes a riff-driven track like “Red Line” feel more dynamic and distinct, it doesn’t keep the song from feeling a tad one-note at times. Even with the sense of sonic beauty and warped ideas that fly throughout the album, they often stay so long on one hook that it’s hard to feel like there’s any momentum to it.

However on something like “Already Gone” Wooden Shjips start to frame their writing around a few chord progressions to give a sort of back-and-forth to their energy. By slowly building other ideas within this, less needs to change and the song actually feels as if it’s changing rather than just reframing the same idea. In this writing there’s also a serene coolness to the song’s steady flow that keeps it mesmerizing at any given moment. All this said, it would be wondrous to see the band step beyond a simple one-hook structure with all the sounds they can bring to one song.

The hypnotic echo really sets the stage on the cool grooves of “Staring At The Sun” as a smoky haze surrounds their delivery. Wooden Shjips also play with distortion and heavy effects on their main melodies here to keep the song a little more exciting, as the song slowly takes what you know and turns it askew again and again. Here the ebb and flow creates a more soothing effect in later verses and lets the song breathe a little more in its repetition.

“Golden Flower” rips out with a fiery burst of energy, though it runs into the same stagnant issues as much of the album. Even with all its intoxicating sound work, it’s when Wooden Shjips start to play around with the dynamics and overall bases that their songs are built around that the songs become truly interesting. That’s why something like “Ride On” in its retro pop luster can feel like such a revelation on the record as it uses every ounce of the band’s clever tone control and use of dynamics to make something powerful. Though it can run long, here they constantly keep things shifting to take the album out on one of its strongest numbers.

Words by Owen Maxwell