wooden wand and the vanishing voice

038 Lp

released on cd by troubleman as
Lp & CD (TMU 156)

Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice comprises ex-members of folk / psych space cadets of the Golden Calves / Polyamory axis, plus a host of other rebels, freaks and prophets, all so deeply affected it’s as if Jesus himself had reached His Hand down the front of their pants. Xiao is laid thick with the musik fur alle vibes; they seek alternative, primarily non-electric methods of melting down orange amplification, leaving everyone trippin’ / slippin’ in the resulting goo. Expect many things bowed and plucked and wet cardboard percussion, providing the backdrop for Wooden Wand to sermonize on the evils of fluoride and read the poetry of anonymous inner city hoods. Death to the prosaic punks! Xiao will appeal to all hippies interested in Limbus, Siloah, Angise Maclise, Vibracathedral Orchestra, The Master QSH, Sperm, Joe Jones, NNCK, etc.


Wooden Wand are one of the most original bands in NYC at the moment, taking the term psych/folk/noise to new levels. Beautiful female harmonies, wonderful musicianship, and straight up noise collapse into a wonderful mixture that's unique and beautiful. Plainly, this is soul music.


If the minor psych-folk renaissance of the past few years seems already to be fading into a bong resin-coated memory, nobody¨s told NYC's Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice. As scene leaders like Boston's Sunburned Hand of the Man burrow farther underground, Wooden Wand are pumping out new material every month while simultaneously reissuing out-of-print gems like Xiao, originally a vinyl-only release on tiny Minnesota indie Destijl. Although they share improv tendencies with their pseudo-rustic brethren, Wooden Wand's willingness to flirt with more traditional song structure not only sets them apart but propels them forward. "Return of the Nose" is a passionate fuzz-guitar drone with a single female voice insisting that "all roads lead to Him!" while a chorus of the damned wail and rattle their chains in the background. Obtuse lyrics are layered throughout Xiao's hazy musical maze: Wooden Wand may have a mission statement, but damned if they're gonna tell us what it is. (3 _ stars)
~Chris Nelson
Boston Phoenix
August 19th, 2005


Wooden Wand And The Vanishing Voice fits somewhere in the same sector as No Neck Blues Band, Sunburned Hand Of The Man, and the MV + EE Medicine Show. They are an urban collective (although rumor has it that some core members recently moved to the hills of Tennessee) that makes rural-oriented music which, to stand a recent Mark E. Smith lyric on its head, the real country folk would hate so much. There ain’t no Kenny Chesney rah-rah action happening here. This stuff tends to attract more hyperbole than thoughtful analysis; maybe it’s all those limited pressing, unlimited price CD-Rs, or the “you’re with us or you’re clueless” attitude these performers can give off in concert. So let’s look behind Wooden Wand’s curtain and see the wizard’s face.

XIAO originally came out as a limited-pressing LP on De Stijl, and the occasional pop indicates that the CD edition was mastered straight from vinyl; like those Finnish freak-folkies, WWVV seem to like a little playback noise. The music is proudly poly-stylistic, encompassing woozy wah-wah workouts, harmonium drones, spooky chants, squiggly synth licks, and echoing processional percussion. Despite claims made by James Toth (Mr. Wooden Wand to you) in an interview for Foxy Digitalis that they want to stave off “the dreaded improv tag,” the music sounds pretty formless. There’s usually a core vocal melody or foundational rhythm, but everything around it sounds spontaneously generated. Maybe that’s the idea; to be spontaneous, but not necessarily to sound like “improvised music?” In any case, pieces like “Lions In Love” and “”Weird Wisteria Tangles Carrion Christ But Intends No Harm” do capture an Art Ensemble Of The Campfire vibe that’s rather appealing if you’re in a patient mood. The latter song title alludes to the explicitly Christian themes that set WWVV apart from their fellows. All of the decipherable vocal parts are drawn from Biblical tales and delivered in a decidedly contemporary vernacular. In “Paper Trail Blues,” Jesus tells a “rich creep” to “Get rid of all your apartment houses and rent-a-trucks.” And in “Weird Wisteria…,” Toth asks “Hey Jonah, you making good time in the belly of the whale?” No one answers.

Are you scratching your head yet? That seems to be WWVV’s objective – to confuse and intrigue, to make something happen but not spell out what it is.
~Bill Meyers


If we were gonna be lazy-asses and just toss off some current reference points, we might say that Wooden Wand album sounds a lot like what you might imagine the avant-folk bastard offspring of Devendra Banhart and Jandek would conjure up, but with absentminded spoken-sung male vocals and somber, resonant female vocals that occasionally draw comparisons to Jarboe (particularly on the song "Caribou Christ In The Great Void"). However, there's so much more to be said about the splendidly off-center sounds of Wooden Wand And The Vanishing Voice. Fans of Vibracathedral Orchestra, No Neck Blues Band, not to mention the assorted twigs and branches of both Animal Collective and Jewelled Antler Collective should definitely check this out (if they haven't already!). Smatterings of flute toots, stringy plink plunks, rattlings, rustlings and other random sounds rummaged from various knic-knacs, shrubbery, loosely strung strings and earthen wares. Apparently there's many many more Wooden Wand releases on the horizon. So if you dig this, you've got plenty more to look forward to! Liner notes by some dude called Thurston Moore.
~Aquarius Records