Weedpecker, Weedpecker: Planting Fields

There are touches of heavy psychedelia here and there in the interplay of guitarists Piotr Wyroslaw “Wyro” Dobry and Bartek “Bando” Dobry, and pieces throughout offer flourish of varying ambiences, but in the end, I don’t think you call your band Weedpecker unless you’re existentially prepared to have someone call you stoner rock, so let’s go with that. Weedpecker play stoner rock. It’s an accurate if somewhat simplified take on what the Warsaw-based foursome proffer on their 2013 self-titled debut, self-released in a pro-pressed jewel case by the band and featuring six tracks set in a fascinating back and forth of instrumental and vocalized material. The album checks in at just under forty minutes, and whether they’re basking wholeheartedly in latter-day Electric Wizardry, as on the penultimate “Sativa Landscapes” or marching with marked complexity past the nine-minute mark on the sans-vocal “Don’t Trust Your Elephant,” the Dobrys, bassist Jeso Ansolo (ex-Antigama) and drummer Pan Falon manage to hone a distinct character in their sound that, despite the pot leaf iconography of the disc’s artwork, relies surprisingly little on its riffs to carry it.

Not to say the riffs aren’t an essential factor, just that they’re not the be-all-end-all of Weedpecker‘s songwriting process. “Don’t Trust Your Elephant” unfolds following opener “Berenjena Pipe” and “Mindbreath,” which show off a propensity for vocal harmonies from Wyro and Bando, and while I’m not sure if I could do such a thing I’d ever write a song in which I didn’t, ultimately, Weedpecker is a stronger album for their propensity not to rely solely on this either. It plays vocal songs and instrumentals off each other as follows: Two with vocals, two without, one with, one without. In this way, “Berenjena Pipe,” “Mindbreath,” “Don’t Trust Your Elephant,” “Kraken,” “Sativa Landscapes” and “Weedfields (Ft. Cheesy Dude)” wind up leading the listener through atmospheres alternately dense and sprawling, capping with dreamy effects echoes that build to crunching riffage only after what feels like a palpably exploratory outing. “Mindbreath” offers some winding lines that seem to nod at Elder while keeping a distinctly European flair, made all the more distinguished by the vocal harmonies, which though presented somewhat raw in the mix are nonetheless well done, seeming to build on what the opener set as the tone for the record.

And it is a record. On CD, the pairing of instrumentals and songs with vocals is all the more palpable, but Weedpecker‘s Weedpecker also breaks pretty evenly into vinyl sides A and B, three cuts on each, and as the end of the first half, “Don’t Trust Your Elephant” certainly builds on what the first two songs have accomplished. Again, it’s a surprise that they’d steer away from the harmonies, but in so doing, they broaden the album’s reach effectively. “Don’t Trust Your Elephant” is patient en route to its solo-topped triumph, building a stomp over the course of its 9:10 that continues on “Kraken” at the start of what would be side B, the four-piece taking on a somewhat metallic vibe that reaches a head circa the four-minute mark when thrash-style soloing turns to heads-down extremity with some double-time ride work from Falon and squibblies in the guitar. That gets contrasted almost immediately by the arrival of “Sativa Landscapes” with its rolling, Witchcult Today-style of lead and rhythm guitar work — on an album that makes no bones about being stoned, it is perhaps the most stoned of all — and once more it’s up to the vocals to ground the piece and distinguish Weedpecker from their influences. In this, the song succeeds where it might just as easily have kowtowed to genre expectation.

Across the release, songs move fluidly one into the next, and that’s perhaps most true of all with”Sativa Landscapes” into “Weedfields,” a fadeout of the one leading to the soft beginning of the other, which, when it seems like “Sativa Landscapes” may just have summarized everything else Weedpecker do on their self-titled, brings about one last turn. Presumably it’s Cheesy Dude on the spaced-out guitar throughout the closer, but I don’t know that. In any case, that’s essentially the standout factor of “Weedfields,” the Yawning Man-style quiet jazz that goes wandering before the riffing kicks in and then periodically pokes through the more weighted tones to continue a psychedelic feel. There’s a build at work in the swirl, but rather than kick into a more metallic tone à la “Kraken,” Weedpecker simply ride the groove as it is while Falon knocks out a couple double-kick triplets in the last minute or so of the album. Honestly, it’s enough, since they hold onto ending quiet, and that they don’t feel the need to go overboard only stands with the structuring of the album itself in indicating that there’s more to Weedpecker than their stonerly first impression might indicate, an overarching sense of progressive songcraft causing one to wonder what might solidify in their approach following this already engaging debut.

Weedpecker, Weedpecker (2013)

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