Wooden Shjips @ Gorilla, Manchester 29.10.16

US space rockers return to the North West in monumental ultra-loud form

Nov 1st, 2016 at Gorilla, Manchester / By Richard Lewis
Wooden Shjips @ Gorilla, Manchester 29.10.16 A band who have done much to inspire the current wave of new groups on the lines ups of Liverpool Psych Fest and Austin’s Levitation shindig, Manchester’s psychedelic votaries fill Gorilla to near capacity for the return of Wooden Shjips. Taking to the stage via a classic rock mix tape, Smashing Pumpkins, Lemonheads, Tom Petty, Wooden Shjips’ best moments combine song craft practiced by the group that inspired their name, CSN (Young hadn't joined at that time) with the endlessly looped motifs of Kosmische musik.

Black Smoke Rise from 2011s West kicks off the sonic leviathans, the quartet bathed in a psychedelic light show which billows across the back wall like something from the Fillmore West in the late 1960s, the visuals controlled by lead singer Erik Ripley Johnson’s Moon Duo cohort Sanae Yamadain up on the venue’s balcony.

While on record the quartet have moved toward more acoustic layers and whisper it, mellower instrumentation, live they continue the voyage they began a decade ago, of ultra-loud, mesmeric hard-hitting psychedelia. A piledriving take on the riffmungus Ruins is a far heavier beast than the recorded version which bears passing resemblance to sixties classic Psychotic Reaction. In contrast an expansive take on Home showcases the less claustrophobic side of the band’s live sound with excellent results, something they ought to do more frequently.

Reminiscent at times of ground breaking space rock titans Hawkwind, whose gnarly psychedelia bordered on punk, what sets the ‘Shjips apart from many of their contemporaries is their rhythmic variety, alternating between straight up head on motorik rushes to skipping beats redolent of jazz.

Sat behind a bare-bones drumkit, (snare, floor tom, kick, cymbals, that’s it) sticksman Omar Ahsanuddin keeps proceedings in check, while keys player Nash Whalen (who doesn’t appear to have received the memo about this evening’s dress code, wearing a black T-shirt instead of white) supplies foundation textures.

That said, for the first third of the set, things seem a bit, quiet compared to the band’s usual ability to give listeners in a neighbouring country tinnitus. Midway through it seems that words are exchanged with the sound desk and the volume increases, with Dusty Jermier bass boosted to its usual place in the mix, pushing the tracks forward with the force of an earth mover.

Departing after an hour and quarter to huge applause, with three years now passed since most recent LP Back to Land which teased out the band’s classic rock inspirations (Neil Young/Black Sabbath/Doors) to frequently dazzling effect, hopefully a new disc is due down the pike next year that explores that avenue further.