City Sun Eater in the River of Light
As I watched Woods put on a stellar show at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday night, I had a strange image cross my mind during the performance of one of their latest tracks, “Can’t See It All”. As the song’s brooding bass line slink into my psyche, an image of a snake entered my mind. It seemed like a random vision, and I chuckled to myself at the weird places my brain can take me during a concert. But as I watched the band continue to play a set composed largely of material off of their latest, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, I began to think about how this band has been able to slither its way through the past decade, shedding skin with each album and returning with a fresh new take on psychedelic folk rock.
The little lo-fi band from Brooklyn, New York has slowly evolved over the course of their eight album run, but the transformation has been a subtle and natural progression. From their quaint lo-fi beginnings to their psychedelic explorations, the band finally reached what seemed their apex with the 2014 folk-pop masterwork, With Light and With Love. Instead of trying to recreate the magic, the band has found new ways to present their memorable melodies on City Sun Eater in the River of Light.
With their 60s hazy folk sound still intact, the band chose to dabble into reggae and Ethiopian jazz. For the Woods initiated, the addition of saxophones, trumpets, and flutes may be a bit jarring, but the band pulls it off without a hitch. This isn’t a band trying to pull a 180; instead, it’s a band learning how to bring more depth and complexity to their already stirring experiments in pop. A major element in coalescing the band’s folk melodies with Afro-centric explorations is the sneaky bass work of Jarvis Taveniere. Summoning the spirits of 70s Afro-beat, he creates a brooding backbone that lurks just below the surface of each track.
Taveniere also shines in other avenues of the album, from his jaunty guitar riffs to his spacey production. If With Light and With Love was a chance for front-man Jeremy Earl to shine with his pop sensibilities, then City Sun Eater in the River of Light is Taveniere taking the helm and driving this caravan into the feral environs of deepest Africa. Taveniere has been allowed to run loose on past albums with mixed results (At Echo Lake) but Earl has figured out how to guide these explorations back toward the center.
“Can’t See It All”:
The result is an album that is experimental while still instantly memorable. Woods have proven once again that they are one of the most crafty, industrious bands out there today, and if City Sun Eater in the River of Light is any sign, this snake-like band has many more skins to shed.