Ancient Sky - Mosaic

by Warwick Stubbs Rating:7 Release Date:2015-06-21

There’s a lot to like about the droney psych-rock of Brooklyn’s Ancient Sky. From the occasional stoner-rock riff to psych jams, the band never lets the tempo drag, or extended jam moments become tedious.

Kevin Lamiell’s bass bubbles away on ‘Know’, while the guitar branches out into long reverb and echo-driven notes. The album emphasises the ‘drone’ more than than the stoner-rock, which might be a bit off-putting for those who heard the first song ‘Sing Swing’ and liked how the bass and distorted guitars locked into their climbing riffs – one of the highlights as the second-half prepares the listener for the transition into more one-riff, drone-focused songs.

‘Induction’ sees that drone come forth and the psychedelia mixed with even more rock, provided amply by the tom-toms, while the guitar picks an unassuming pattern for three full minutes. Through it all, the vocals take prominance like they were slowly crawling forward on broken glass, but eventually the song picks up and races towards the end.

‘Protection’ generally goes nowhere, and the wah-wah drenched guitar drowns much of the space that could have helped the lines the song exploits stand out if they were less spread across the stereo picture. Although it is far from uninteresting or boring, this song is probably the most forgettable, despite a promising beginning.

The same can be said for the second song, ‘Two Lights’, though here they seem a bit more focused on the dynamics, as the vocals yell, sliding themselves into the music rather than standing out over top of it. However, it all ends up as a mess of noise.

It takes the third song, ‘Garbage Brain’, to truly stand out, feeling like it’s an actual song rather than an extensive jam with dynamics. Here, the vocals demand attention on the verses, and strongly compliment other sections with a lead rock harmony, while the drums constantly power through with fills in every space. I might be willing to suggest there’s a few too many effects happening, as the phaser pedal is buried in amongst the already heavy vocal reverb, but the overall effect is of a contemplative moment captured in a driving rock song.

Overall, this is possibly a small flaw in the album – that the effects are what give it the ‘drone-psych’ tag rather than the abilities of the players, which are showcased with great enthusiasm on almost every track. The effect is noticeably absent on the fourth track, 'Know', where the heavy rock influence manages to come through so much stronger, and one can only wonder how much more powerful this song could have been with less effects-pedals, more focus on bass and drums, and with cleaner guitar distortion doubled on each side.

Perhaps that would turn them into a straight-up stoner-rock band, but it certainly wouldn't be a bad move production-wise - it's practically what the intro and verses of the song demand to have done, while the chorus feels truly secure in all those effects. Brandon Evan’s keyboards are rarely heard, or noticeable, but they do make a distinct appearance taking out the tail-end of ‘Garbage Brain’, after the guitar has already disappeared and the drums, bass and vocals end their parts on the final verse.

‘Ancient Tape’ brings the drums to the hard-hitting foreground, though it’s still hard to tell they have a second drummer in the ranks. But the song does well to break up the slower pace with pauses and re-entries that help give the final song a dynamic variety somewhat lacking over the rest of the album. However, for the latter half, the song drifts away in its desire to be drone-pysch before ending without much fanfare.

While there is only one song that really stands out, there is also nothing on the rest of the album to dislike or feel particularly negative about. All musicians, including singer/guitarist Brain Markham play their parts well and make you feel their music is worth something – and it is. It just hasn’t quite reached the point of attaining an identity uniquely their own, though ‘Sing Swing’ and ‘Garbage Brain’ are very close to achieving that.

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