Wooden Shjips

support Shiny Darkly
author BV date 02/12/13 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

I’ve been going to a lot of gigs lately, as November was a downright crazy month gig-wise with December clearing out the last great shows before the end of the year. So, having given Wooden Shjips’ newest album “Back To Land” quite a few spins as of late, I decided that I would take the time out of my excruciatingly packed schedule to check them out in a live setting. As seems to be the standard these days, I headed out into the all-encompassing early winter darkness on my bike to check out yet another gig at one of my favorite venues at the moment; Pumpehuset.

All photos by Peter Troest

Shiny Darkly

The support of the night was one that I had actually encountered before. Having seen them support a band called Moon Duo earlier this year, I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen during their set. Throughout their 45 minutes of Joy Division-inspired post-punk, the band seemed to enthrall some select portions of the crowd, whilst coming off as distinctly uninteresting to others. Shiny Darkly seemingly write some very decent post-punk tracks but it all tends to become rather monotonous at times, making it hard to get into if you’re not necessarily an avid follower of the post-punk scene. Somewhere around the middle of the set, I noticed that the band is not as tight as I recollected them to be. - Experiencing their drummer in particular to up the tempo quite a noticeable bit during some segments of their songs. It seems to go by unnoticed to most, but seems to be something that cannot be looked away from by others. As Shiny Darkly rounded off their set, I already had a hard time remembering most of their set which, in my mind, indicates a rather uninteresting performance. Granted, I’m not entirely into it but I do remember them being quite a bit more interesting earlier this year.

6

Wooden Shjips

As the main act of the night, Wooden Shjips took the stage after an insanely swift changeover. The question from the sound-engineer, ”do you just wanna start?”, was met by the fuzzy riffing of frontman Ripley Johnson which launched the band into a splendid rendition of “Black Smoke Rise“. – it would prove to be the perfect opening track for a performance with such an emphasis on the hallucinogenic, as the dynamic bass-grooves of Dusty Jermier laid down a trippy, repetitive foundation that mesmerized the crowd, leaving room for the remaining members of Wooden Shjips to really jam out. Most noticeably so, the band hit an early peak with “Motorbike” and “Fallin’” where the four individual members became one well-oiled machine on a kaleidoscopic journey. The trippy visuals provided on the backdrop made for an excellent experience that melded the repetitive and trance-y rhythmical patterns of Wooden Shjips with a proper psychedelic wallpaper – thus completing an amazing audio/visual experience that was easy to lose yourself to, provided you weren’t one of the many, and I do mean many, people of the night who enjoyed to dance like madman to this delightfully cosmic onslaught of sound.

There was little time to settle down from one track to another, as keyboardist Nash Whalen kept the mood flowing with audio samples of water, as if taken from a running creek or a vast ocean, completing the experience of drifting completely away. With “Ruins”, the band ventured to the borders of outer-space soundwise, as Whalen played some highly melodic synth patterns that fit perfectly into Ripley Johnson’s eclectic and echo-laden fuzz-guitar stylings. Johnson’s unusual approach to vocals created a sort of befitting ambience to it all, as his floating, echoing vocals rested gently on top of the instrumental mix – making the vocals relatively inaudible, yet creating an awareness that they are there, sort of like a gentle whisper or a repetitive mantra. Things took a turn for the heavier when the band launched into “Lazy Bones”. This fast-paced and brutally repetitive track made for some incredibly intense moments in the crowd as it was near-impossible not to be swept up by the currents of movement from the remainder of the people in the venue. Following this frenzy of movement, Wooden Shjips slowed things down again with “Death’s Not Your Friend” before leaving the stage to the sound of howling feedback and droning synth patterns.

As the time came for the first encore of the night, a cover version of Snapper’s “Buddy”, Ripley Johnson uttered his second non-sung sentence of the night; ”Thank you. It’s great to be back in Copenhagen, we’ll be back soon”. As one could imagine, words were merely superfluous in a setting like this, where the music is of the essence and crowd interaction has little significance. Managing to keep the jamming going for close to 8 minutes, Wooden Shjips round of “Buddy” to then disappear from the stage once more. At this point, the crowd clearly hadn’t gotten tired of Wooden Shjips yet, as the chanting and clapping continued to be audible throughout the venue. Thankfully so, Wooden Shjips returned once more for their final encore; the neo-psychedelic classic “We Ask You To Ride”, albeit in a slightly faster version than what I have grown accustomed to. The hypnotic, repetitive bass foundation and the eerie synth melody provided room for drummer Omar Ahsanuddin to really be heard, as his minimalist drum-kit (consisting only of a kick-drum, a snare, two cymbals and a hi-hat) was being worked to its fullest. As Johnson’s mesmerizing echo-vocals chanted away and his howling wall of feedback-laden soloing reached a near-epic climax of the night, the band looked to be really into it, staring off into blank space or keeping their eyes shut for extended periods of time as they’re delving completely into the tracks themselves, whilst still maintaining an astonishing level of movement on that very little stage.

As I left Pumpehuset on this very night, I became reassured of the fact that I absolutely have to experience Wooden Shjips again. It was hypnotic, it was enthralling and it was downright thrilling to finally get to see them.

8

  • 1. Black Smoke Rising
  • 2. Other Stars
  • 3. Motorbike
  • 4. Fallin’
  • 5. Ruins
  • 6. For So Long
  • 7. Flight
  • 8. Lazy Bones
  • 9. Death’s Not Your Friend

--Encore--

  • 10. Buddy (Snapper cover)
  • 11. We Ask You To Ride

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