Wooden Shjips: Shjips in the Night: Live in San Francisco, June 8, 2018
This first live LP from San Francisco psych champions the Wooden Shjips is a historic feat. Half the band fled the tech boom for Portland, Ore. a few years back, a departure captured on 2013’s acoustic-inflected Back to Land. The also-mellow 2018 release V. found singer/guitarist Ripley Johnson ruminating on wildfires and the solar eclipse. But Shjips in the Night , mixed by psych supergroup Heron Oblivion, marks a return to their San Francisco roots. The Herons sculpt seven big Shjips jams and the spaces between into avant-psych craziness. You are at the show, beginning to peak. Guitar, keys and drums trickle—then the buzz saw riff of “Lazy Bones” kicks in hot and fast. The pace is breathless. The big groove of “For So Long” bumps through the mindfuckery, then the guitar slices across and reverberates back in. Across the record, Johnson’s guitar cascades in sheets; Nash Whalen’s keys bend and warp; Omar Ahsanuddin’s whiptight drums echo almost into bop, and, with Dusty Jermier’s nowthrobbing, now-melodic basslines, lock time down so tight, it’s hard to tell where the loops end and the Shjips’ live time-crunch prowess begins. The culmination is “Death’s Not Your Friend,” one of the Shjips’ earliest underground vinyl singles. Here, the game is revealed. Live, the Shjips have become purveyors of big, dark, danceable groove. The Herons bend them all the way back to the beginning, grinding the live cut through the original’s studio echoplexery, with its wild molecular psychedelia—as only fans would think to do. It’s a journey. And when it ends, you realize: You aren’t in any shape to drive home.