Since its beginnings as a mostly amateur drone collective, Wooden Shjips has sought release out of murky, repetitive simplicity. Even now, with skilled players not just at guitar (Ripley Johnson, always the ringer), but bass, drums and keyboards, Wooden Shjips clamps down on virtuosity. The band drenches circular riffs in corrosive baths of distortion, paces long-horizon tramps with rock-simple rhythms, oscillates numbingly between one or two keyboard tones. Yet here, as on 2011’s West, the band has cleared the fog, somewhat, to lift moments of clarity – voice, organ, lucidly dreamed guitar solos – from a miasmic soup of dissonance.
Back to Land is the first album that Wooden Shjips has recorded since Johnson and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin moved to Portland, Oregon, and, it improves on the lightness and sense of melody that drifted, intermittently, through West. Johnson recently said, in an interview with the Quietus, that he was thinking about classic rock while making these songs– Neil Young in particular, but also the Rolling Stones, the Who and Led Zeppelin. Yet while an aura of blues rock creeps into the occasional
Ambition, some might say, is overrated. The first thing that the members of Good Stuff House share is an aversion to the conventional rock and roll career path. Guitarist Matt Christensen and drummer Mike Weis both play in Zelienople, a band that, by design, makes up part of its members’ lives rather than dominating them. The third member of Good Stuff House is Scott Tuma, a former member of Souled American. Tuma likewise concluded that the pleasures of being a homebody and the manageability of relationships with one-man record labels outweighed the dubious merits of trying to be big, especially when all that lands you is a line item in someone else’s bankruptcy suit (I’m talking about you, Rough Trade). Nowadays he rarely plays out in Chicago, let alone anyplace where he can’t finish the night in his own bed and puts out records whenever he damned well pleases.
During the trio’s years of activity (2006-2009), Good Stuff House recorded fitfully and gigged sporadically within Chicago’s city limits. They did release one proper CD, Endless Bummer. If you asked ‘em, they preferred
Like a lot of putatively “serious,” “independent” popular music today, The Bones of What You Believe, the debut album by the much-hyped Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches (pronounced “Churches,” but I prefer “Churches with a v”) is about the joy of adolescent brooding, or, less charitably, the brooding of adolescent joy. The “hits,” which will already be familiar to those who have anticipated the album, surely deserve at least the charity of backhanded compliments. The melancholy electro-doodling that fills out the record may or may not.
If adolescent sounds like a harsh characterization, it’s worth bearing in mind the breadth and frequency with which it can be appropriately applied
It makes perfect sense that synth-based, dance-oriented music from the 1980s should be undergoing its current revival. Our era is so saturated with nihilistic instrumental rationalities of technology and mediation that it’s difficult to address their significance without sounding hackneyed and left-behind. What better way to defamiliarize ourselves with the rapid, inhuman layering to nowhere than to refamiliarize ourselves with the way things sounded when electronic and digital music first came into their own?
We cannot know, listening today, how this new music sounded and felt when it was first released. We can only attempt to roll back some layers of
Produced by Lee Hazlewood, wheezing organ, heavy breakdown
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