Premiere: Woo Park – “Smokes” EP

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We’re absurdly stoked to premiere the psychedelic groove rock ensemble Woo Park‘s debut EP Smokes. Consider this a formal introduction to the Chicago sextet’s fresh, free-flowing, future-flinging vibes–a 29-minute, 9-track assortment of mosaicked melodies and roiling rhythms. They’ve got it. That nearly indescribable energy that surges and sprawls out of truly great music: magic. It’s all over Smokes, certainly palpable in the astral ambience of opening track “Space Gangster.” The 66-second instrumental track is a slow-moving tide of aqueous guitar riffs and psychotropic synth lines, while frontwoman Emily Nichols whines and wails lightyears away. It’s so beguiling, so subversively provocative, I could listen to it for hours on end–as is the case for the three other interludes that divide up the four standard-length tracks on the EP.

Woo Park worked diligently and tenaciously as live act, developing their sound and honing their chops, before they brought their ideas to the studio. The production of independent music, for good or ill, now often operates in reverse. The skill Woo Park have acquired, their wealth of interesting and innovative musical ideas, is more than apparent on Smokes, a sophisticated and enthralling piece of art that’s brimming over with hints at the group’s next evolution. “Future Plans Pt. I” is 67-seconds of writhing and turbulent synthesizer, parried against lethargic guitar licks and an inebriated drum kit. EP closer “Future Plans Pt. III” features Chance the Rapper-collaborator Noname Gypsy with a viciously composed flow (“Real smart, real specific/ A new prolific/ A little tab in your like you’re new to tripping/ You thought the birdie in your window was a cockroach”) over soaring, spiraling, contrapuntal beatwork.

The rest of Smokes is precise and powerful, albeit less electronically adventurous, relinquishing wholly and unequivocally to that organic, big band groove they’ve so successfully translated from the stage to the studio. Lead single “Boom Bap” has Emily Nichols grinding and skanking up all kinds of salient and sexy sounds, initially losing her powers and “wasting time on that shit that don’t matter” before easing into the chorus with a lucid lean: “Flying from this high/So clearer out my mind/Insanity’s in style/ I’ll stay here for a while.”         

Woo Park, at full force, is exhilarating, utterly enthralling, but they’re all too liable to slip into a half-time, languid breakdown of whatever their performing, like the evanescent energies that propel “Tiny Straw” back and forth, from supersonic psychedelic intensity to a slow, sensual release. “In the back of your mind it crawls/Sucking all of your life through tiny straws, ya dig?” croons Nichols in a subdued splendor before howling out another chaotic chorus: “It’ll tear your core to shreds!” It might be an allusion to the initial side-effects of LSD, those that rip, roar and bubble in your gut, eventually giving way too a gushy, heady high. But by now we know exactly what it is. Smokes is magic. Let it tear your core to shreds.

Stream the Smokes EP in full below.

Angel E. Fraden

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