LSD doesnâ€™t come with Wooden Shjips fifth album, West, but midway through the opening â€œBlack Smoke Rise,â€ things become blissfully disorienting.Â The swirling textures intoxicate through a guitar grind that is thick as a cloud. This is, of course, where the San Franciscans shine â€“ in their own little world where they can tug at your strings like psychedelic marionettes.
While heady music isnâ€™t new to Wooden Shjips, West marks a couple of firsts: the first time the band has recorded in a proper studio and the first time they have used an engineer. The outcome is quite an experience, with the nine tracks sinking to depths and rising to heights through a haze of distortion. Â But this trip isnâ€™t all sunshine and daffodils. The overdriven explorations get bogged down at times, particularly on the sprawling â€œFlightâ€ which devolves into a fuzzy meditation that overstays its welcome.
Wooden Shjips are enthralling, mystifying even.Â And what they donâ€™t conjure with sound, the mold with repetition. West is a bold album, a walk into the deep dark woods without a trail of pebbles to mark the path home.
West is out now on Thrill Jockey