Wooden Shjips – Remixes 12″

Wooden Shjips - Remixes 12"

It can be an expensive full time hobby trying to keep up with Ripley Johnson’s prolific twin output with Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo (pity the impoverished dedicated follower of both outfits whom is also a Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices collector…) and during these cash-strapped times even ‘snooze or lose’ limited vinyl releases have to be considered carefully on merit not just loyalty, particularly when the premise is of a remix variety.

However, this slightly-inaccurately named Remixes 12” from Wooden Shjips (on the band’s relatively new home on the profile-raising Thrill Jockey label) is far from being a straightforward and indeed inessential cash-in on the acclaim afforded to last year’s West LP.

The opening Andrew Weatherall remix of “Crossing” from West, is perhaps the least dramatic cut on this slice of plastic.  Whilst his slightly ‘90s electro embellishments recall more of his past work with Sabres of Paradise and Primal Scream, Weatherall does recognise and highlight the meticulous and intuitive grasp of dark grooves that mesh into the Wooden Shjips sound, that owes massive amounts to The Doors, Suicide, Spacemen 3, Gallon Drunk and multiple flavours of Krautrock, albeit without over-indebtedness to one individual influence.  To achieve this effect, besides his own fresh additions, Weatherall’s mix magnifies Johnson’s original buried murmuring vocal and ramps-up Dusty Jermier’s ocean-trawling bass-line, with an emphasis on both the quartet’s lysergic mind-bending and its thick motorik underbelly.

Next up is Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember’s disorientating “Wiking Stew (aka Red Krayola-ing),” which mashes-up several elemental passages from across West into a seven or so minute sound collagePerhaps seeking to muddy and blur his own inspiration on Wooden Shjips from his erstwhile tenure in Spacemen 3, Kember’s searing spliced-together walls of backwards drum loops and nausea-inducing guitar distortion will leave even the hardiest fan of psychedelic-drone rock in need of a recuperative lie-down.

The final and lengthiest track – “Ursus Maritimus (Last Bear’s Lament)” – isn’t truly a Wooden Shjips track, but it’s nevertheless a must-hear for shared fans of the group and the aforementioned Moon Duo spin-off.  Derived from a basic musical bed built by Johnson that has been remotely expanded and reworked by Simon Price (trading as the capital letter averse kandodo and also known from Brit pysch-rockers, The Heads), this epic instrumental is an ugly beautiful sea of twinkling percussion, thuggish drum machines, doomy keyboard-derived drones and spaced-out guitar curling ‘n’ churning.  It’s repetitive and indulgent for sure, yet it’s so purposefully and blissfully executed that it warrants frequent immersive spins.

So, overall Remixes is bad for the already strained credit-cards of Ripley Johnson devotees but the fiscal pain should be offset by the satisfaction of acquiring a crackly sonically expansive nugget that only 2499 other people will be able own and that many more will fight over in the eBay/Discogs trenches.

Thrill Jockey