Metronomic single-chord mantras have provided the basis for gorgeously hypnotic music, from the repetitive compositions of Terry Riley through the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" to Krautrock bands like Faust and Can. So while Wooden Shjips aren't totally breaking new ground on their recent disc, the band synthesizes the catatonic beauty of such drone-rock legends as Spacemen 3, Japan's Les Rallizes Denudes, and Australia's the Scientists. Wooden Shjips' individualist twist comes where the S.F. quartet also infuses a '60s psychedelic vibe into the mix.
Opening track "We Ask You to Ride" starts with Nash Whalen's reedy, minimalist organ supporting Erik "Ripley" Johnson's intoned vocals. The combination gives the song a blissed-out Doors-meets-Suicide feel, until Johnson lets rip with a ringing, off-the-hook fuzz-guitar solo. The song provides the template for the next four tracks, where bare-bones garage-riff throb serves as foundation for periodic noise explosions. This dynamic counterpoint, as well as buckets of reverb and creative analog production, make for a simultaneously bracing and mesmerizing listen. An added bonus: The first 2,000 copies of Wooden Shjips come with an extra disc of the band's more raucous, out-of-print material. The promise of owning the complete recorded works of one of San Francisco's superior bands in one fell swoop makes this one shjip definitely worth boarding.