Album Cover
Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice
The Flood
Troubleman Unltd
November 08, 2005


As prolific as WWVV are, a bunch of their stuff is pretty hit-and-miss: the records tend to hinge on 10+ minute psychedelic acoustic guitar drone improvisation, only sometimes (most notedly on Wooden Wand's expanded rerelease solo debut Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg) getting it together for straightforward folk songs and sounding like a completely different band (I cite All Music Guide's listing of both Wolf Eyes and Devendra Banhart as similar artists.) The improvisations, while usually comfortable and interesting to varying degrees, are usually too disparate and self-absorbed to really hold a listener's attention (although there are notable exceptions, e.g. L'un Marquer Contre la Moissoneuse's 25-minute "Bloated Moray Elk"), and the most successful songs are the ones that meld the drony improv bits with shreds of concrete songwriting (Xiao's "Paper Trail Blues" and "Cobra Christ of the Cabbage", for example), often achieving enrapturing combinations of beautiful instrumentation and eerie, deadpan vocals (ranging from singing to full-on narrative storytelling).

The epic drones are still all over The Flood, but for the first time, they seem consciously composed, like everyone knows what they and everyone else are doing. It helps quite a bit: "Snake Earl"'s eleven minutes are all as clear-headedly beautiful as the final minute of Xiao's "Paper Trail Blues", to say nothing of the title track, which sounds almost like a slow Black Dice piece, intoned over with persistent vocal anti-harmonies, but with every individual element playing off every other, and sounding effectively unified (and enthralling) for a full fourteen minutes.

And here it's not such a stretch to move from drone to folk songs: the "Flood"-"Sunbeam Creek"-"Dogpaddlin' Home" transition seems effortless and natural, at least in comparison with Moissoneuse's off-putting "White Fungus Bird's Nest and a Moon Pie"-"Counterfeit Kingdom" pairing. And goddamn, "Dogpaddlin' Home". Forget Devendra Banhart, Iron and Wine could have written this song. In a good way.

The amazing thing about The Flood is that it could have been just as spotty as anything else they've done without much changing, and it's even possible that everything I'm saying about cohesive composition is totally wrong and that it's just a fluke, and perhaps that's part of its appeal to me. But regardless of what they were intending, WW and the VV have created the album I've been waiting for since I first heard them: bizarre and beautiful, and just composed enough to sound cohesive, without losing any of the element of danger and spontaneity.

Noah Jackson

Track List

  1. Snake Earl
  2. Flood
  3. (I Wanna Live In) Sunbeam Creek
  4. Dogpaddlin' Home In Line with My Lord
  5. Imeltime of the Season (Interlude)
  6. Satya Sai Sweeeetback Plays "Oxblood Boots"