Wooden Shjips : West

LSD doesn’t come with Wooden Shjips fifth album, West, but midway through the opening “Black Smoke Rise,” things become blissfully disorienting.  The swirling textures intoxicate through a guitar grind that is thick as a cloud. This is, of course, where the San Franciscans shine – in their own little world where they can tug at your strings like psychedelic marionettes.

While heady music isn’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.  But this trip isn’t all sunshine and daffodils. The overdriven explorations get bogged down at times, particularly on the sprawling “Flight” which devolves into a fuzzy meditation that overstays its welcome.

Wooden Shjips are enthralling, mystifying even.  And what they don’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