Gig review by Toni Woodward with gig photography by Rob Hadley

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The Cult of Dom Keller are the support tonight. The Nottingham based four piece has been creating psychedelic fuzzed out rock for the last five years or so, supporting the likes of Black Angels and White Hills and playing the renowned Austin Psych-Fest. The bass is the driving force behind their music, with its stoner groove and repetition, which is supplemented by keyboards, distorted guitar and pounding drums. The vocals have a range of effects on them and are kept low in the mix and on occasion get totally swamped by the instruments, which is unfortunate as they add a further level to their well-constructed melee. At times, the keyboard lines hark back to the Manchester Indie Scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s, almost creating a heavier, psych Stone Roses. The Cult Of Dom Keller are pertinent choice as the support act from Wooden Shjips and most of the audience are relishing their music. They are certainly worth seeking out, if you appreciate psychedelic noise.

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Wooden Shjips are a quartet that formed in San Francisco who have been creating psychedelic stoner rock for the last eight years or so. They take to stage and undertake a brief soundcheck before beginning their set for real. Black and white images are projected across the stage and over the first few rows of the audience whilst the band immerse us with their hypnotic brand of rock. Dusty Jermier’s constantly grooving bass lines and Omar Ahsanuddin’s sensitive yet propelling drums are the rhythmic power underlying all the tracks. Then over this pulsating beat is Ripley Johnson’s unpretentious guitar riffs and restrained vocals whilst Nash Whalen adds well-considered organ parts which pay homage to the late 60’s and early 70’s.

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The beautiful These Shadows shows Johnson’s talents for crafting laid back melodies, which openly stray into Velvet Underground territory without losing their flow. Occasionally, you sense Ahsanuddin gently pushing the pace more especially as the band embrace more upbeat tracks such as Lazy Bones. Unlike many other genres, the vocals are purposefully low in the mix to be used more as an instrument than a lead, however, often that get so lost that they become more of a blur than an entity which is unfortunate as Johnson has delightfully calming tone.

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Between each song there is a period of white noise which is visually displayed as dot static or “snow”, which ensures that there is no silence until the end of the set and keeps the audience in a mesmeric state. The most obvious musical comparison you can make is with Hawkwind especially with the visuals and the distorted churning guitar, yet, with tracks from Back to Land other influences such as The Doors and Crazy Horse rear their heads. After just over an hour, Wooden Shjips bring their highly crafted set to a close which is greeted with enthusiastic applause from the audience who have been released from the entrancing Shjips’ spell.

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For me, Wooden Shjips should be listened to lying on the ground in a sun soaked field with your eyes closed, allowing time for your mind to run free, so I struggled to let myself go within the confines of the Academy. Irrespective of the venue, the band are one of the finest psychedelic bands on the circuit at the moment and definitely worth watching.

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