Aquarius Records

Saturday, May 2, 2009 | |

established 1970!
San Francisco, California
the store that's old enough to know better

All though I have never been to Aquarius Records I can say that I have been to their website and I must say that they employ some of the most prolific reviewers ever. Each week Aquarius outputs a new set of "new releases" and each one comes with a paragraph or two about the release, this in my opinion is one of the most impressive things about them, I have done reviews and I know that it's hard work, lots of hard work, but they seem to be up for it and I think it's commendable.
From this weeks releases:

WOODEN SHJIPS Dos (Holy Mountain) lp
Wooden Shjips are the kind of band that inspire rabid devotion, and not without good reason. They are, in their own distinct way, a perfect band, stripping psychedelia of all its unnecessary flourishes and focusing, REALLY focusing on the fundamental elements that make your favorite songs your favorite songs. No verses, no choruses, no frills, and no bullshit. Just an endless, hypnotic groove that allows the listener to tune out everything else and let the music take them where they need to be. This simplicity is also the band's greatest source of power. While other groups will work desperately to cultivate an image as a "psychedelic" band, Wooden Shjips bypass all that and instead let their music speak for itself. The results are always mesmerizing, not to mention somewhat strange and mysterious, the only logical outcome from four guys who must know exactly what they are doing and understand the importance of working together as a unit instead of showing off their individual musical chops, save the abundance of perfectly timed, ripping fuzz guitar solos. The songs on the band's self-titled debut and their collection of early singles are at once classic and modern, seeming as if they had existed forever and simply needed to be unlocked and revealed by the right musicians. In that respect, we should consider ourselves very lucky that Wooden Shjips exist NOW.
When news of a new Shjips record hit the streets, we aQuarians were foaming at the mouth wondering what might lie ahead. Then one day, without warning, Dos was here, the four disembodied heads on the cover staring forward like totem poles floating in silver space. While the first album featured a hazy image of the band sitting on a stairwell, their faces are the focal point here, almost as if Wooden Shjips are gradually revealing more to the mystery that is their existence. But what does it sound like? Well, hopefully our review can convince you of this album's absolute majesty... but since words could never properly explain how much this has struck some of us, you should probably check out the sound samples, and above all, trust us.
The album opens perfectly with "Motorbike", possibly the most joyous Wooden Shjips song to date. Swirling guitar chords and oscillating swooshes give one the feeling of traveling at high speeds through some glorious psychedelic vortex, throttling you about in the best way imaginable. It's the sort of song that makes you feel great to be alive, with catchy keyboard melodies recalling a more frantic version of the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" as the UNSTOPPABLE rhythm section lays down a steady rhythmic framework that doesn't let up for the next 38 minutes. Next up is "For So Long", maybe our favorite song on the record. Driven by a bass line that is both spooky and relentlessly catchy, sparse, percussive guitar and organ creep about, as singer Ripley's deep croon wavers in the atmosphere. The somewhat ambivalent vibe of this song makes it the ideal soundtrack to pretty much any moment in your day, whether strolling down the street without a care in the world OR walking home late at night in some paranoid daze. "Down By The Sea" utilizes an appropriate underwater effect on the organ as the bass and drums give you the impression of, well, walking down by the sea. About three minutes in, a classic Wooden Shjips guitar solo enters and eventually morphs into squalls of heavenly white noise. This wonderful psych excursion is followed by the more down tempo "Aquarian Time", featuring a cool tremeloed organ (or maybe it's a piano?) and a devastating fuzz guitar groove that locks in with the bass before another rad guitar solo takes you way up into the clouds. The closing number, "Fallin'", kicks off with a simple two note groove, accented by a reedy organ accompanying the bass and a glistening, cleanly strummed guitar while a simple snare hit keeps the percussive flow going, the work of a man who must surely be in a trance - seriously, how the hell does this guy play so steady for so long?!?! It puts you deep under the band's spell, and then, at the 4 minute mark, you are introduced to the CATCHIEST BASS LINE OF THE YEAR!!! It will stick in your head for ages. After 11 minutes, the song ends with an organ chord and amp hum, reminding you that, yes, Wooden Shjips are human beings and not just a psychedelic rock machine. It's like the band is stopping to breathe for a moment before the next adventure, which hopefully will come very soon. You are left wondering what just happened, and if you're like us, you'll immediately put Dos on for another spin (or, if you're like a certain AQ staffer, 9 or 10 more spins!).
The overall sound on Dos is more upfront and less murky than on past releases. This slightly higher fidelity suits Wooden Shjips splendidly, as these five songs are generally tighter and more snappingly rhythmic than anything they have produced before. Each instrument is represented perfectly in the mix, with nothing taking precedence. The nonstop propulsion of this group is undoubtedly the result of four people operating on another level of psychedelic comprehension, a level many other bands simply don't understand. At the same time, their music is highly enjoyable and not difficult to "get". We certainly get it...
To call Dos "essential" wouldn't be enough. We can tell you that this album exceeded any expectations we may have had. We can tell you how if anyone interrupts you while listening to this, you will be pretty pissed and will most likely ignore them and crank up the volume even more. We can tell you that it will remain one of our favorite records for 2009. But you probably just need to close your eyes and experience it for yourself.

NO NECK BLUES BAND At 6am We Become The Police (Locust) lp
Vinyl only soundtrack to the forthcoming No Neck Blues Band dvd, featuring we can only guess judging from the album cover, naked dudes and weird bits of machinery. But really, nothing about these guys should surprise us anymore. They've been following their own idiosyncratic trajectory from day one, and unlike most bands, they seem to grow further and further out with every new record. At 6am is another gloriously clattery, abstract rhythmic workout, tribal, primitive, feral, but spiritual and otherworldly. It's of course all about the drums, percussion, thumps,and pounds, and rattles and crunch, and clang and bang, but woven into long dark undulating dreamscapes, ominous and haunting and mysterious, lots of dark magic going on, creaking moaning guitars, bits of squeak and creak, streaks of feedback, disembodied voices. In fact, on listening to this, were more inclined to think the picture on the sleeve isn't from the movie, but is just a regular old No Neck performance. That's exactly how this sounds, like naked writhing bodies lit by flickering firelight, masked drummers, a strange symphony of shadow and light.
Elsewhere, long form low drones are introduces, fragmented chords, muted muffled voices, all smoothed out and blurred into stretches of dark ambient free folk shimmer, but always with a distinctly dangerous vibe, heavier on the shadow than the light, squalls of free jazz like percussive clatter lead into moaning choruses, Henry Flynt like fiddle freakouts. One of the tracks begins like a No Neck / Avarus forest drum jam, but slowly evolves into something almost space rocky, lots of effects, warbly guitar melodies, delay, drifting bits of tinkle and chime, fragments of African drumming that drift in and then fade out again, and then finally, the last track is a strangely lo-fi soundscape of brittle tones and abstract percussion, long shimmery high end drones, and muted old timey sounding ambience, until the band lock into a gorgeous outro, that sounds a bit like a gamelan, but all distorted and jazzy and atonal. Awesome as always! Definitely harkening back to the NNCK sound of old, in fact this stuff IS old, from the archives, ferinstance two of these tracks were recorded (but not used) for the soundtrack to 1997's Gummo, and Lord knows they would have been perfect, dark and creepy and abstract and twisted and gorgeous.

oh... and I'm not suppose to re-print them but I think they will give me the benefit here because I am directly linking them, so yea check out Aquarius Records they are cool.