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Ripship - Album Review: Fearsome Engine

06 Jan 2023 // A review by Nicholas Clark
This couldn’t be a Ripship review without at least mentioning the immense noise the two-piece band produces. There – I’ve said it; they sure can conjure up some dBs. Now, let's dive into their complex new album Fearsome Engine.

These days, thanks to technology, bands have the ability to double or triple track their instruments or voices, harmonizing and delaying their live performances to be set against samples that play alongside the generated racket or are triggered. Now more than ever before, musicians have the opportunity to build up immense clouds of distortion and effects while barely holding control of the inevitable feedback to predictable sounding results...

You might be forgiven for thinking Ripship might be one of these bands that surround their stage space with pedals, bells and whistles to create a kaleidoscopic range of strange and startling noises to be lost in. Even the bands inspirations which are listed as sci-fi topics, futuristic concerns and dystopic worlds might lead you astray. This band ain’t about that. They possess control. They are tight, dare I say it, neat. I would say effective and competent, but that might sound a little boring. If you saw their live setup, you’d hope they were. Like pilots on a space vessel, I remember looking at their stage equipment and hoping they knew how to fly. I needn’t have worried.

What amazes me both seeing them live and hearing them on record is the huge scope of sounds they will from their instruments and voices, but more impressively, the range of genres they can blend within one song. Heavy metal is present, but the type listeners of Royal Blood (another two piece) would approve of. This is no White Stripes knock off. Although the songs are lean, there is more than a nod to progressive psychedelic rock. Jazz basslines burble through, as do some impressive and tasteful jazz drumbeats. Middle eastern scales make an appearance on The Spyre, while Ripship is Online sounds like the bass line might have been borrowed by Devo. Moore's Law is a breezy jazz number meets hypnotic Japanese muzak.

Fu Manchu, Kyuss, even NZ’s own The Mint Chicks may well have inspired the band; just as much as Sleep, Muse, The Mars Volta and maybe even Rush...

It makes for an interesting and unexpected listen. Although the sounds are no doubt all produced by well recorded acoustic drums, electric guitar and synths, there is a definite type of production that leaves the album crackling, snappy and almost with a pop finish. Two voices, (with unmistakable and unapologetic kiwi accents), narrate the listener during the rocket ride, and although the male’s voice is often vocoded, lyrics are clear and definite. The interaction between the singers is sensational, as demonstrated most skilfully on Moore’s Law.

Fearsome Engine begins with The Great Filter, a simple song that builds with a robotic voice, which would no doubt work well in a live setting as a brilliant opener. Filtered sounds buzz around the punchy riff, adding menace and a rising tension. It’s perhaps not their most technically interesting song, but it's enough to fine-tune your listening settings. The album’s title track follows, introducing their signature sound with a few tricky rhythms and a crushing chorus that could have played at least once more. Third track Cloud Seeder is total stoner rock.

Katamari Damashi means literally ‘lump soul’ in Japanese, but refers most likely to the strange third-person puzzle game allowing players to recreate the whole universe through rolling a magical, highly adhesive ball called a katamari into other objects. It's the kind of game the band probably loves, and fans would too. Oh yeah, that song rocks too.

Ripship is Callum Lincoln (guitar and vocals) and Eva-Rae McLean (drums and vocals). They've been playing live for at least two years now, and their accolades are impressive and growing. A band that really has to be appreciated live. Fearsome Engine was produced by Peter Ruddell (Sulfate, Wax Chattels) who added the shine to the chrome on this one.

There’s probably a large section of listeners outside of the usual rock fandom who would dig this new album, perhaps more than the traditional four-piece stoner rock outfit might gather. By avoiding clichés but celebrating the best parts from the huge range of genres they mention on this album, Ripship have created a clean, heavy, multi-faceted beast that is beautiful rather than brutal; but it all makes for a more enjoyable listen. This is thinking peoples’ psych-rock.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )


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