Zoned In: Woodsman: Mystic Places

By Michael Powell

Earlier this year, Woodsman released Rare Forms, a full-length in which the band explored both the grimy industrial labyrinth of '70s German experimentalism and the rustic, bucolic light flights that resemble sunshine-saturated psychedelia. During my interview with the band in early April, Trevor Peterson revealed that Rare Forms did not, conceptually speaking, represent where Woodsman is now-- the culmination of the gestation period required to properly release a record and the band's never-ending creative stream. That was no hyperbole, as just nine months later, Mystic Places establishes Woodsman as a very different act.

Mystic Places is, in some ways, a harsher, less fluid effort, with more attention to texture, rigid song structures, and rhythmic intensity. The new sound careers into dark chasms at remarkable velocity while punching at the cave walls-- best evidenced on "In Circles," the first single from the EP. But as always with this band, that's only one side of the story. These more concise songs also beget a stronger sense of pop accessibility. More importantly, though the bliss-outs of Rare Forms are all but negated on the EP, the totemic quartet has perfected the type of aerodynamic, soaring choruses that would do early Floyd and Spiritualized fans quite well.

Some of Mystic Places is certainly a recognizable extension from Rare Forms, such as "View From the Vision Hand"-- a perfect complement to "Inside/Outside," a driving, tension-filled, mostly instrumental piece interspersed with telescreen-evoking vocal snippets. "Parallel Minds" and "In Circles" showcase a well-established dichotomy in Woodsman's music: one between ambient narcotic mystery tours and pummeling, skyward neo-kraut. The EP's highlight is "Specdrum," a four-minute interstellar overdrive that combines all of Woodsman's key elements in utterly top form-- snaky guitar melodies, celestial ambience, primordial dual rhythms, and gorgeous, shimmering canyon calls. Woodsman has always crafted arresting tribal motorik, but "Specdrum" takes it to some other, intangible level. They've hit a stride.

What hasn't changed throughout Mystic Places is Woodsman's metaphysical flavor. Like their previous albums, Mystic Places draws conceptual inspiration from with various mysterious American southwest environs-- the Earth Hum, the Marfa Lights, Roswell, and that oddity that is the Denver International Airport. With Rare Forms, Woodsman becomes both more enigmatic and easier to grasp. A monumental effort.

Woodsman: Mystic Places

Mystic Places is available now from Trevor Peterson's own Fire Talk

Tags: woodsman, audio, zoned in

Posted by alteredzones on 10/20/2011 at 1:23 p.m..

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