Following in the vaunted tradition of San Franciscan art-rock and psychedelia, Wood Shjips delivers their second bleached and burnt-out album of vintage rock buoyed by vintage motorik. Dos‘s five tracks call to mind spacey originators like Suicide, Neu!, and Can—all specialists in advanced minimalism. The Shjips layer their trance-inducing excursions with fuzzed-over blues licks, putting them in line with modern psych purveyors like Comets on Fire and Earthless. (Funny that such a straightforward sound calls to mind so many influences). Almost nothing changes over the course of the album’s 38 minutes, and depending on your receptivity to relentless cycles of micro-patterns, that may not be such a terrible thing.
Opener “Motorbike” introduces the steady-but-loose propulsion that persists through the album, and follow-up “For So Long” satisfyingly brings that template to bear on a half-buried pop tune. They hurtle along on swollen bass and crystalline organ and guitar, the sparse vocals drawn tight in claustrophobia a la Alan Vega. Both tracks are served by their relatively short lengths. The lengthier tracks, “Down by the Sea” and “Fallin’,” tend to lose definition by dint of their loping predictability; guitar solos, particularly on the former, are smears of exultant noise, while the percussion is myopic. Stretch that kind of tension across nearly 20 minutes and it goes slack.
Each track sounds like a classic garage rocker dissolving in a swamp, expanding as it merges with the mud. Riffs are repeated ad nauseam until they make the listener either transcend space/time or fall asleep. These couldn’t be called “jams” exactly because they only exhibit a desire to plug away at a solitary insistent rhythm, like pumping blood in a vegetative patient. The overall tenor is a gritty, robust pulse slathered in fuzz. Dos works as great background music, but simply isn’t consistently engaging. On the other hand, it succeeds as an exercise in minimalist rock deconstructivism, so choose your poison.