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 the band is now – a result of the gestation period required to properly release a record and Woodsman’s never-ending creative stream. That was no hyperbole, as just nine months later, Mystic Places establishes Woodsman as a very different artist.
Mystic Places is, in some ways, a harsher, less fluid effort, with a diminished focus on vibing, more attention to texture, rigid song structures, and rhythmic intensity. The new sound propels into dark chasms at remarkable velocity while punching at the cave walls – best evidenced on “In Circles,” the first single dropped from the EP. As always with this band of course, 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” that features driving, mostly instrumental tension piece interspersed with telescreen-evoking vocal snippets. “Parallel Minds” and “In Circles” showcase Woodsman’s best well-established dichotomy – 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. As their previous albums so masterfully accomplished, Mystic Places funnels their own mysticism through the prism of mysterious American southwest environs – the Earth Hum, the Marfa Lights, Roswell, and that oddity that’s the Denver International Airport. With Rare Forms, Woodsman becomes both more enigmatic, yet accessible and easy to grasp – a monumental effort.