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Jess And The Ancient Ones – The Horse And Other Weird Tales

Svart

Jess And The Ancient Ones - The Horse and Other Weird TalesJess And The Ancient Ones are a enigma; their first album and EP were labelled under the occult rock genre alongside such bands as Jex Thoth and Blood Ceremony. This may have largely been due to the press releases saying that the songs were all about the band’s experiences with magick. Then came the second album, The Aquarius Tapes, which seemed to discuss the occult influence during the sixties, the sleeve proudly bearing images of Charles Manson, Aleister Crowley, etc, and  their sound was also taking on more of a psychedelic twang than the first album.

The thing is that Aquarius was quite a head full of sonic ideas that it didn’t have as instant a punch as the first album. And now we have album number three (if we don’t include the side project called The Exploding Eyes Orchestra) and the band deliver their shortest songs (and album) to date, treading between late-sixties psych and a slight touch of prog. The title also hints at the kind of short stories Arthur Machen or William Hope Hodgeson wrote that became popular again in cheap paperbacks from 1968 onwards.

“Death Is The Doors” starts off with a fuzzy organ sound reminiscent of The Doors. Jess‘s vocals are, as always, wonderful and the track has fantastic catchy tune that could have been written by The Monkees if Charles Manson had fronted them. There are very obvious psychedelic colours on the track, but this more like six six sixties than anything else. “Shining” starts with a punchy keyboard riff that has slight prog overtones with a pulsing forward momentum from the bass and drums. Again, Jess’s vocals steal the show as they soar over the music, and you could almost imagine this track being played in a club scene in a film like Psych Out (1968).

“Your Exploding Head” has a jazzier feel than the other tracks, and again reminds me of the looser elements of The Doors — until it hits that big chorus, which is utterly fantastic. This seems to reference an LSD trip as your mind and consciousness expands. “You And Eyes” has a moodier feel to it, with Jess’s vocals hitting slightly into Grace Slick territory. The song is so perfectly crafted that it could have fallen off almost any West Coast album from 1968. This is also one of the tracks that makes great use of sampled voiceovers that add to the mystical element of the song.

“Radio Aquarius” is a pure slab of out-there psychedelia with a spoken tale all about the acid experience; it’s here where we see the real influence behind this alum, the sanctity of LSD as a magickal experience. “Return To Hallucinate” gets back to the Roky Erickson-sounding garage psych sound. “(Here Comes) The Rainbow Mouth” takes the sound further out and faster, so that it reaches the speed of light and collapses in on itself in beautiful colours across the skyscape. This is a song that builds with power and intensity as it grows to the big final chords that blast from your speakers like they are from another time.

“Minotaure” was the single taken from the album and gave a good overview of what to expect from the full LP. Melodic organ stabs and subtle lead guitar interplay nicely with each other to produce the perfect three minutes of out-there rock. “Anyway The Minds Flow” closes the album, and is more thoughtful piece, sounding like an occult rock version of Iron Butterfly. It’s this track that mixes some of the amazing bombast of the first album with the new sound of The Ancient Ones. It’s also where the band become their most proggy, and it just happens to be the longest track on the album. With lyrics about mushroom clouds and revolution, it could almost be 1970 all over again at points. The song, like the whole album, has a rich analogue sound that adds to the overall mood of the tracks.

This album is Jess And The Ancient Ones back on track with their finest collection of songs for a while. For some, the album may seem a tad short; but in my opinion that’s no bad thing, as what you have here is thirty-four minutes of great music without any filler to bulk it out to a longer album. It will be interesting to see how some of the songs play out live, and maybe for this their third album we may get a long overdue UK tour from the band.

-Gary Parsons-

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