Thursday 20 August 2009

Wooden Shjips / Papercuts - 19 August 2009, The Borderline

I am surprised and thrilled by Papercuts. Apart from the nice illustration on their album cover catching my eye in magazines, the band have passed me by so far. I’d been vaguely expecting something kind of abrasive and shouty involving lots of leaping about. This assumption was based purely on the name ‘Papercuts’. Not only does the word sum up something painful, but there also used to be that other band Papercuts feat. bloke what used to be in Symposium hurling himself about shoutily and rather invigoratingly. They did a great gig at The Pleasure Unit once where he climbed on a tiny table and pulled the black-out curtain off the window – only to be reprimanded by the bar staff. ‘Twas aces. Logically, I know that the sound of those Papercuts has nothing to do with these San Francisco-based Papercuts, but my subconscious makes the connections anyway. Stoopid old subconscious, these Papercuts are not noisy at all, they are, in fact, kind of delicate. Which a paper cut is I suppose...

Grab an easy reference to hang on…erm, Mercury Rev and their pastoral psych, Galaxie 500’s hazy glow. Eerie guitar, bass pulses, woozy organ and Jason Quever's soft vocals conjure a cocoon world into which I am soon lulled. Mallets on drums create heartbeats. Songs switch rhythm half way through, about-face and become something else, intricate, entanglements. I’m won over pretty sharpish.

Wooden Shjips are pretty damn perfect. Even with the odd equipment problem. The bass amp cuts out a couple of times, leaving a skeleton version of the music rattling at the walls, but when the bass does kick back in, it just goes to underline how glorious the noise is. The heavy, chugging, unchanging riff of rumbling notes providing a hefty backbone to the songs. Add to this the simple metronomic beats supplied centre stage by the drummer on a v. stripped down kit, plus ghostly organ punching it all along and you’ve got your basic drone ingredients. Yum. Then there is the delicious sound of phasing, slicing up and down through the songs, dragging you in, impelling you to drown in the rhythm. Over this beardy wizard man does minimal vocal bits and sprawling guitar things; squiggling and flanging and wubby wah-wahing, riding through the tunnel of sound in a big ball of reverb.

To add to the general ambience of wiggy, freak-out grooviness, the band have their own back projections flickering across the stage bathing them in disorientating blips of colour and bands of light. People nod along blissfully, some young blokes at the front in Wooden Shjips t-shirts flail crazily, inches away from the guitar, like they’re physically clutching at the sounds its making.

The songs never vary from their template, and why the hell would they? It is, of course, the BEST template for songs. Just ask Jarvis Cocker who is nod-nodding along in the crowd.