Prior to 2006, Wooden Shjips was an experiment in primitive and minimalist rock. After it imploded, Ripley Johnson, guitar and vocals, assembled the current lineup of Dusty Jermier on bass, Nash Whalen on organ, and Omar Ahsanuddin on drums.
West marks the first time the band recorded in a proper studio, as well as the first time with an engineer (Phil Manley). All previous recordings, either self-released, for Holy Mountain, or Mexican Summer were done more piecemeal in the band’s rehearsal studio.
The over riding theme for the album is the American West, and all of the mythology, romanticism, and idealism that it embodies. The band members grew up on the East Coast, so for a long time the history and literature of the West was an abstraction and a fascination for them.
Wooden Shjips | Lazy Bones
Part of the allure of the West, which is part of the myth, is the concept of Manifest Destiny, the vastness, and the possibilities for reinvention, which is not to say that is what each song is specifically about, but it was very much an undercurrent during the songwriting of the album. The artwork also touches on the same theme by using an iconic structure that is both a gateway in a literal and metaphorical sense.
It is easy to see why these would appeal to Wooden Shjips, as their music lends itself to exploration. It is both transformative and transporting, the sum being far greater than it’s parts. The steady driving rhythms are the elliptical motion machine driven by the often thick and distorted guitar lines, melodic and boundless. Where they may lead cannot be anticipated but following them is exhilarating.
Wooden Shjips | We Ask You To Ride
It is all about getting there, the destination, while the experience of getting there is an adventure. It is the guitar lines that guide both the listener and the band on the literal and metaphorical journey into the vastness. The ghostly vocals, obscured by dense layers of instruments surrounding them, are alluring with their airy mystery.
This elusive quality further draws the listener in, while they attempt to grasp at their meaning. While indebted to both the psych music of the ‘60s and mid-‘70s, electric Neil Young, and even the induced travels of Spacemen 3, the Wooden Shjips’ music is modern and in every way their own. West is an epic journey to the edge and beyond.
Michael Chapman | Kodak Ghosts
Who would fit more perfectly to play with WOODEN SHJIPS than Michael Chapman? He s already been rediscovered wholesale in the US courtesy of his Jack Rose and No Neck Blues Band connections, topped off by his extensive interview by fan Thurston Moore in Fretboard Journal in 2009, where Moore compared Chapman s style and influence with that of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Now the UK and Europe are catching up with this sudden explosion of excitement about him, and quite right too.
First championed by John Peel in the 70s and Jack Rose and No Neck Blues Band in the 00s, his career retrospective double CD and booklet package Trainsong: Guitar Compositions 1967-2010 came out on Tompkins Square in February 2011 and Thurston Moore released “The Resurrection And Revenge Of The Clayton Peacock ” on Ecstatic Peace around the same time. Both releases have received stunning reviews and found their way into the WIRE MAGAZINE´s Top 50 albums of 2011!
Michael Chapman | Sensimilia
As Spencer Grady notes on the BBC Music site, “Just as John Fahey and Robbie Basho were belatedly sainted by a slew of avant-garde musicians eager to enrich their experimental fields with old primitive tradition, so the same enclave have reached out to embrace Yorkshire-born minstrel Michael Chapman. ”
This event is highly recommended by Digital in Berlin! We are giving away 2 x 2 tickets. Just send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Wooden Shjips” as the subject.
Wooden Shjips & Michael Chapman LIVE
presented by Festsaal, Digital in Berlin, Noisey, Berlin Unlike & Byte FM
Friday, 29 June 2012 | 21:00 CET
Festsaal Kreuzberg | Skalitzer Str. 130 | 10999 Berlin/Kreuzberg
woodenshjips.com | michaelchapman.co.uk | festsaal-kreuzberg.de