Wooden Shjips : V.

It’s been five years since Ripley Johnson and Wooden Shjips set sail with their last LP titled Back To Land. Five years in this day and age feels more like a lifetime, so the announcement of the California psych rockers return was a much welcomed thing. Not that Johnson was just sitting on his laurels these past few years. In 2015, Johnson released Shadows of the Sun with Moon Duo(his electro/psych side project with Sanae Yamada.) Then in 2017 Moon Duo released two albums, Occult Architecture Vol. 1, and later in the year Occult Architecture Vol. 2. A concept album about the dark and the light, the ying and the yang, the male and female, they were both easily the best Moon Duo records yet.

Off that success Wooden Shjips returns with the excellent V.. This album can’t really be described as a return to form as Wooden Shjips have never really left the form they began with. What is that form? Fuzzy psych rock, space-y drones, and minimalist grooves in various shapes and forms since their self-titled debut in 2007. Some records had harder edges(West), while others tried to lighten up the mood a bit(Back To Land), but every time out Wooden Shjips kept it far out with a West Coast attitude. V. takes everything that came before and turns it into both the mellowest and loosest record yet.

“Eclipse” has a familiarity to it. That’s more than likely because of that dream-like guitar courtesy of Johnson. The echoed fuzz is his calling card, both with Shjips and Moon Duo. This song feels as if it’s falling from space, returning to earth’s atmosphere ablaze and ready to explode into a ball of fire. There’s some groovy saxophone thrown in that adds new sonic touches to the WS musical agenda. “In The Fall” has an all new vibe. Tighter grooves take over from the loose dreaminess, but there still ends up being plenty of dreaminess in the chorus. There’s hints of Suicide in Johnson’s vocal delivery as well. The spirit of Alan Vega lives on here. The quartet of Omar Ahsanuddin, Dusty Jermier, Nash Whalen and Ripley Johnson also capture some of the magic that NEU! possessed on their first couple of albums. “Red Line” is a pure, breezy summer jam. There’s an air of positive vibes and long car rides here with the backwards guitars and head-bopping rhythms that’s infectious. This might be one the most upbeat tracks Wooden Shjips have committed to tape.

According to Wooden Shjips Bandcamp page: “The songs were written during the summer of 2017 by singer and guitarist Ripley Johnson as an antidote to the pervasive anxiety both political and natural. As Ripley tells it, “We had huge forest fires just outside of Portland and there was intense haze and layers of ash in the city. I was sitting on my porch every evening, watching ash fall down like snow, the sky looking like it was on fire. It was an apocalyptic feeling. Summer in Portland is usually really chill and beautiful, and we were working on a ‘summer record,’ but the outside world kept intruding on my headspace.” You do get the sense that Johnson and Wooden Shjips are working against some kind of psychic downer here. They seem to be trying to build this positive musical statement against a world figuratively(and literally) up in flames.

The first single to be released was the nearly 8-minute “Staring At The Sun”. Imagine Love n Rockets and Jesus and Mary Chain working things out in some London studio back in the mid-80s and you’ll get what’s going on here. Loping rhythm and Johnson laying the vibes on thick. Pure space vibes. “Ride On” signs this record off in style. It’s as if The Band discovered fuzz pedals and got turned onto spacier realms as opposed to the earthier ones. It’s a beautiful and noisy way to end things.

I think Wooden Shjips were getting into a musical rut. While Back To Land was a decent record, it wasn’t breaking new sonic ground. V. is a stellar return for Wooden Shjips, while also opening the doors to new realms the band hadn’t yet visited. V. is the perfect summer jam that will easily carry you into fall and winter.

7.9 out of 10

Favorite Albums of 2017(so far) : Maine’s ‘V’

There’s been a gradual shift in my brain over the last few years to music that doesn’t necessarily tell a story through words more than through mood. Listen, I grew up devouring the Beatles, Rush, the Kinks, Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Wilco, and the list goes on. I was a song guy. I was moved by stories and words and grand musical statements in the classic songwriting tradition. I still love the songwriting tradition and even do it myself when time allows, but over the last three to four years I’ve found myself drawn to instrumental music. In-particular, heavy synth music. There’s something about synth music that feels ingrained into my DNA that I hadn’t known was there till about four years ago when I bought Walter Rizatti’s score for House By The Cemetery. The last time I’d heard that music was when I was probably 14 years old when I first watched Fulci’s trashy classic. Hearing it again at the ripe middle age of 39 I felt there was something that I’d unlocked in my head that had been stuck up there since that balmy summer night all those years ago. That music instantly connected with me. There was no warming up period. It just instantly hit me.

From that point on I began grabbing as many of those Italian horror scores as I could, and expanded into newer artists that had a kinship with the synth and all things eerie and Gothic. I’m always looking for someone who can move me with a turn of a melody, hypnotic repetition, and who can create a sonic world where I’m quite comfortable spending time in. One person new on my musical radar that can do all of those in spades is Michel Dupay, aka MAINE. While a lot of synth music is a synthetic creation, built on circuits, wires, tubes, and buzzing waves of noise, Dupay takes a much  more organic approach to his heavy synth sound. According to his Bandcamp page, MAINE’s music is “Fiercely analogue, pre-midi musique from Montmartre, Paris.” A lot of electronic music uses midi to help create and build songs. It’s a process by which an artist can connect and sync several pieces of electronic tools and gadgets allowing a pristine connection of different musical pieces. Dupay is creating music the old fashioned way, by performing these songs as a band without the safety net of midi and syncing.

“He makes music the old fashioned way. He performs it.” – John Houseman.

I’d seen Burning Witches Records talking MAINE’s new album V up quite a bit over the summer. A couple months ago I finally got around to checking it out and I was absolutely blown away by the record. It hits every dark, melancholy tone just right. It’s a slow burn LP, too. It allows you to work your way into the album gradually as to savor the bits and pieces without overindulging. You find new things to love each time you drop the needle. There’s something very European about the sound. It’s quietly alluring and subtly dance floor-ready. Something like the vinyl-only “Black Cloud” feels like a slow cloud rolling in over the Parisian sun. “La Pluie” evokes visions of cobblestone streets, centuries-old villages, and seaside walks. “Cadence” has a very early-80s vibe. Something that might have accompanied the opening credits to a “Satanic Panic” occult film. “Below The Landslide(featuring Nina)” is an exquisite piece of synth music. With the addition of vocals it becomes something far more emotional and engaging. “The World Without” is pure desolate beauty, like a slow crawl through some dystopian landscape. “I Never Wanted to Write These Words down for You” gives you the feeling of waking from some long, ancient rest. Tremolo-effected electric piano gives the track an almost pop sensibility. It’s like the moment when the clouds break and there’s shards of light hitting the earth once again.

This record is so sonically rich. It has the production value of an early 70s Alan Parsons production. There’s an aged refinement that permeates the record I can’t get enough of. It’s dark, but there’s a warmth in the songs. Like early OMD obsessed with Vangelis. The production and engineering is almost like another instrument altogether.

V is an hypnotic listening experience. There are not overwrought explosions of sound. It’s all very cool and calculated. Some tracks feel as if they feed right into the next, giving you the experience of one long, musical piece rather than individual shots of songs. The album’s organic nature only adds to the feeling that these songs sprung up from the earth. Dupay masterfully weaves these songs together like a Gothic tapestry for us to wrap ourselves in and embrace whatever journey they’re going to take us on. I cannot recommend V enough. It’s a masterpiece of restraint and storied beauty.

Buy the album right here.


Maine : V

Lofty beauty. That’s the phrase that comes to my mind when I hear the music of Maine. No, I’m not talking about the indigenous sounds of Bangor, Augustus, Portland, or Oguquit. I’m talking about French electronic musician and composer Michel Dupay’s band Maine. I haven’t dug in too deep to Dupay’s past or what he did prior to Maine, not yet anyways. Right now I’m currently basking in the beauty of his newest LP titled V. Yes, there are are four other releases before it titled I, II, III, and IV, and they are absolutely stunning. Each one is a major step to something new, and V is the culmination of those steps. It’s a musical structure of dark, lofty beauty.

Dupay makes a heavy synth album that carries with it a lot of weight. It feels dense; built with stone, timber, European soil, and the ghosts that linger in that soil. There’s an early 80s discotheque quality to the music, but more Gothic than dance floor fodder. There’s a doomed romanticism that lingers over the proceedings, and with that there’s something very human about his work despite his preferred instrument is a fabricated machine that manipulates electricity with modulation to create melody. Dupay also makes Maine records without the help of MIDI instruments. All of his music is played, not synced with computers. That gives his work an immediacy, as its recorded with real drums, guitar, bass, and female vocals on a song. It’s the perfect melding of organic and synthetic.

V is comprised of 14 tracks, all slow, meticulous builds of tension and melancholy. “La Pluie” saunters out of the speakers with a mix of doomed sophistication and early 80s 4AD flair. It feels like opening credit music to some lost Italian Giallo film. “Trajection Lure” puts me in mind of UK artist Pentagram Home Video, albeit with slightly loftier goals. “Now We Rise And We Are Everywhere” has almost a video game vibe to it. It builds an electric anxiety while still retaining this semblance of early alternative 80s. “There And Then” could almost fit perfectly in some John Hughes film about friends or enemies becoming friends. There’s something very uplifting about this track.

I think one of the most affecting tracks here is the beautifully haunting “Below The Landslide”, featuring Nina on vocals. With the church organ-like sounds, tightly wound drum track, and the the loping melody it feels like a quiet moment by the seaside. There’s a longing that permeates this track. “Chaque etoile est un soleil qui se couche” is another that seems to shine, as does the tranquil “Left Hand”.

Elsewhere, “Black Cloud” has a bit of a wheezy analog groove to it. I could imagine some post-apocalyptic hero making his way through the wasteland with this track playing over the proceedings. It’s minimalist, but anything more on here and it would topple the magic. “Cadence” puts me in mind of Slasher Film Festival Strategy(another analog hero in the realm of synth music) with its ominous bass and strut of a rhythm.

The imagined film score is something of a popular thing these days. When it’s done right it can take you into that imagined world. Maine may not fit quite into that imagined film score genre, but his music definitely takes me into another world. Or realm. Cobblestone streets, hovering fog, and a chill in the air. Trees emptying themselves of dead leaves and a moon that looks big enough to hit with a rock. It feels like it came out of a time capsule. Beautiful electronic music from a bygone era. There is a beating heart in the chest of this machine, and it beats loudly.

8.3 out of 10

Papir : V

The Danish trio Papir have always sounded much larger than you’d expect three guys to sound. With just the guitar/bass/drums rock trio standard set up, these guys make a mountain of sound. At times brash and fuzz-covered, other times dreamy and atmospheric, Nicklas Sørensen, Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen, and Christian Becher Clausen cover terrain as diverse as psych rock, post-rock, and even moments veering on progressive. Their tenure with El Paraiso Records gave our ears classics like Stundum, IIIIV , and their explosive Live At Roadburn that showed they are a force to be reckoned with live. These records set the stage for the trio from Copenhagen to seriously blow minds(and eardrums) for years to come.

Papir have returned from a three year hiatus with a brand new album and a brand new record label. Papir’s V is everything you’d hope from them and more. A double LP that spans over 90 minutes, V is a heady, expansive journey into the cosmos and back. Grab some headphones and a couple beers and get set to take flight.

Papir’s move from the mighty El Paraiso Records to Stickman Records has done nothing to quell the trio’s heady, hazy musical atmospherics. The record is seven songs clocking in over 90 minutes and is easily their most epic set yet. This is their most consistently dreamy collection of songs as well. At times there’s moments of Krautrock repetition(“V.II”), grand moments of blissed-out psychedelia(“V.III”), and epic musical statements(“V.VII”), but nothing ever gets into overdrive here. There are a few moments where Sørensen pushes his amps into overdrive territory, but for the most part this is a groove-driven affair. The rhythm section of Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and Christian Becher Clausen lay down some solid groove foundations which allow the guitars to float above the proceedings and go where they may.

That’s not to say this isn’t a heavy record.

On the contrary, this album is like looking into some unknown abyss. It’s a beautiful and overwhelming experience. There are moments when everything melts together into one cavernous sound, as if the band are performing in a black hole. I liken it to my experience with vast, open spaces; back when I used to ride rollercoasters and would often go to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio for the non-pharmaceutical thrills. Sitting amidst the gray, ominous waters of Lake Erie, those slow crawls up that first great hill on the Magnum XL-200 were both exhilarating and horrifying. Clear days were okay, but overcast days the lake looked like this endless expanse that would devour you whole in an instant. And at night, the giant ferris wheel sat on what seemed to be the edge of the world. Lights flickered as you were cast up into the night sky to look over into Lake Erie’s beckoning calls. V has moments of that overwhelming vastness.

“V.III” starts out like some great post-rock anthem and then seems to slowly dissipate into that black abyss. “V.IV” is reminiscent of the lighter moments of Stundum. It feels like an early morning buzz as the crisp air hits your lungs and the day unfolds before your eyes. There’s a jazz quality to the drumming here. It’s like Tony Williams getting weird with NEU! in 1973. Opener “V.I” is like a hand guiding you through a technicolor maze. It’s breezy and takes flight many times, with the guitars getting nice and gritty at moments. Nicklas Sørensen seems to be channeling the great Michael Rother at times with his fluid guitar notes. This really is the perfect opener for an epic album like this.

Papir have never come across as a band that feels they need to rush through a song. They start a musical journey and explore like free jazz pioneers did before them. Their music is the wandering kind. You put on headphones, drop the needle, and just go where the music takes you. V is their most expansive set yet, giving us seven worlds to explore and get lost in. And they are beautiful worlds, indeed.

8.4 out of 10



New Track : Papir’s “V.I” Is As Epic As It Gets

So I’ve heard the new Papir record V that is being released on August 18th, 2017. I’ve swam in its epic daydreams put to music. I have let the psychedelic thunder created by the Danish trio knock my eardrums around and I’ve contemplated the universe and our place in it as the 7 epic tracks spin over the course of 90+ minutes(94 minutes to be exact) and I’m here to say that…I’ll have much more to say very soon.

For now I will leave you with a few off the cuff remarks about the first track entitled “V.I”.

It’s nearly 13 minutes of atmospheric beauty. It never becomes bombastic, crashing waves that pummel the soul. It’s more like an endless horizon that continuously grows into something more far reaching and beautiful. Nicklas Sørensen, Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen, and Christian Becher Clausen are no strangers to epic album experiences. Each time out with them their albums, including Stundum, III, and IV, Papir extend their sonic reach even further into the great, existential divide. With the release of V, and in particular “V.I” they seem to have topped even their very best.

Sørensen puts his guitar wizardry to exquisite work, creating almost jazz-toned guitar lines. They don’t jump out of the speakers and slap you into submission, more so they beckon you into the warm and sunny vibe of the track. With a rhythm section like Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and Christian Becher Clausen, Sørensen has the foundation to get absolutely orbital with his guitar approach, though things remain more grounded on “V.I”. There’s an airy, organic vibe here that feels mildly psychedelic, mildly post-rock, but very much all Papir.

Head over to The Obelisk and check out track, and read an amazing review of V by JJ Koczan, aka H.P. Taskmaster. A full review right here at JHubner73 will be coming soon. Until then, head over to Stickman Records and preorder the double vinyl of V and make your soul happy.