A collage of swirling guitar tones provides the framework for Woodsman’s self-titled EP, but that is not all this psychedelic alternative-rock band has to offer. “Woodsman” initially feels a bit uninspired because of the basic guitar and drums setup, but as each track moves on, a new sound or dynamic is added to expand on the ethereal mood that the band has laid out in a concise, yet emotionally charged, fashion.
What gives this EP its greatest appeal is the seemingly dissimilar elements it brings together, noting trip-hop and ’90s alternative to name a few. Songs like “Gravelines” have a highly intense buildup marked by effect-heavy guitars and a pulsating drum buildup. Meanwhile, tracks like “Rune” introduce synth-bass tones and jazz chords that seem oddly danceable in comparison. The hybridization is not jarring though. Each track instead gives the EP a balanced feel that is fun to listen to without sounding bland.
Woodsman implemented vocals in past releases like “Mystery Tape,” but they mostly sounded forced and reduced the intense, multi-layered guitar sound. Here, however, Woodsman has shirked the ill-fitting singing for more heartfelt sounding tunes, and it does this by fleshing out the ideas of every track. Each song is well-crafted, containing a narrative structure that makes “Woodsman” play like a collection of mini epics. “In The End, Remember When?” begins with sparse guitar picking and a relaxed drum beat before building up into distorted guitars, synths and frenzied drumming that sits on the verge of chaos.
The biggest flaw in the EP is the inappropriate use of guitar effects. At some moments, the band seems unsure of what to do with its vast array of guitar pedals, and at other times it works, but the consistency is not there. At some points there are too many effects at once, sounding as if the guitarists are relying too much on heavy reverb and distortion to sound edgier. Other times, the guitar playing is technically well done but would benefit from more experimentation with different sounds.
When the effects and technical playing do line up appropriately, the band is at its most powerful. “Woodsman” rides the line between hypnotic trip-hop and highly energetic rock music, but through different guitar sounds, the band creates an atmosphere that is at times jarring, but at other times surprisingly cohesive.