Our album of the week (30th April 2010)
Great new album from Woodsist's flagbearers: Woods, and theres a damn fine bio to go with it too... The distance between 2007's At Rear House and 2010's At Echo Lake may at first seem only semantic, but it more properly represents a move from a kind of informal back porch jam ethos to a fully-committed vision of the infinite possibilities of group playing. Over the past few years, Woods has established themselves as an anomaly in a world of freaks. They were an odd proposition even in the outré company of vocalist / guitarist / label owner Jeremy Earl s Woodsist roster,perpetually out of time, committed to songsmanship in an age of noise, droneand improvisation, to extended soloing, oblique instrumentals and the usurping use of tapes and F/X in an age of dead-end singer-songwriters. Recentlive shows have seen them best confuse the two, playing beautifully constructedsongs torn apart by fuzztone jams and odd electronics. At Echo Lake feels like a diamond-sharp distillation of the turbulent power of their live shows, in much the same way that The GratefulDead s Dark Star single amplified and engulfed the planetary aspect of their improvised takes. Some of the material here the opening Blood Dries Darker, the euphoric Mornin Time is so lush that lesser brains would've succumbed to the appeal of strings and horns, but At Echo Lake is more Fifth Dimension than Notorious Byrd Brothers, nowhere more so than on From the Horn, a track as beautiful in its assault on form as Eight Miles High or Swell Maps Midget Submarines. But despite the instrumental innovation the album heralds G. Lucas Cranes psychedelic tape work on Suffering Season, guest musician Matthew Valentine's harmonica and modified banjo / sitar on Time Fading Lines At Echo Lake is all about the vocals. Woods secret weapon is the quality of Earl s voice, absorbing the naïve style of Jad Fair, Jonathan Richman and Neil Young while rethinking it as a disciplineand a tradition. Here he is singing at the peak of his powers, in a high soulful style bolstered by heavenly arrangements of backing vocals. At Echo Lake feels like the transmission point for teenage garage from the past to the future. Deformed by contemporary experiments, bolstered by magical traditions, it's the sound of now, right here, At Echo Lake. Dave Keenan, Glasgow, March 2010
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