(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Senior Writer/Journalist, RiffRelevant.com)
Some bands strike such an impactful, uniquely resonating chord within us, for whatever reason that might be. Trying to decipher such a cause and effect would be akin to counting the individual grains of sand on any given beach.
For a decade now, Los Angeles’ ANCESTORS have carved out just such a distinguished place within me. From the first time I heard their 2008 album Neptune With Fire, I have been smitten with this aural entity, one that truly is set apart from – head and shoulders above, really – most other contemporary acts. With each new release that has come from ANCESTORS, they repeatedly mark themselves musically as something altogether unparalleled.
Now, after an absence of six lengthy, seemingly prolonged years since their last studio recording, from when the band was a quintet – 2012’s In Dreams And Time – they return. Now a trio, Justin Maranga, Jason Watkins and Daniel Pouliot are back with the new full-length recording, “Suspended In Reflections“, from Pelagic Records (August 24th).
To be honest, it is no easy feat to tackle a synopsis, or summary, review, what have you, about any ANCESTORS album. No, it is a daunting undertaking, even for the most well-versed or experienced reviewer or music critic because as such, they/we/I surely seek to do said record justice… to give it its proper due, so to speak.
With six songs in total, “Suspended In Reflections” is a fittingly appropriate title in the fact that the listener, if familiar with past releases from the band, will find shards of what has been before here. For me, that recognition comes with the epic grandiosity within the progressive rock this now three-piece has a knack for creating. This is something we are instantly reacquainted with from the earliest moments of the initial commencement, “Gone“.
With its slow, gradual unfurling and metered advance, the song creates true emotion as it goes along. You experience feelings of loss, hope, anticipation, and more, at varied points within the track’s trajectory. For me, there is an underlying doom sensibility to it, but it is such that is subtle and faint for the atmospheric nature of the song itself is soaring, and ultimately, uplifting.
That unspoken promise of hope, or positivity perhaps, is quite an ever-present component as we travel “Through A Window” and after, “Lying In The Grass“. The latter’s ever so melodic, phenomenally ambient tinged vibes are quite Pink Floydian at their root. Masterful uses of synths, and what I believe is a Vocoder, pepper the airier nuances of this poignant track as things slightly build and build with heady, yet downplayed, intenser friction permeating them.
Speaking of intensity, a type present to some degree, but yet not the palpable sort of which we oft think or attribute, comes “Into The Fall“. This mostly instrumental composition – vocals are sparse, not arriving until the last minute and half or so of this 5 minute plus song – is, simply incredible. Yet, not at all merely just simple in its construction for, with violins and other string instrumentation accentuating specific passages, this number is just astounding.
Synths begin to bubble up at the end of “Into The Fall“, bridging us into the very start of the darker-hued “Release“. There, they, and the other aural additives slowly assimilating into the track, soon gives the sense that the infinite lays before us in this unmistakable expanse of space rock. We float freely, without tethering, within the song now, loosed upon this aurally amassed sea of cosmic possibility, right up until its abrupt, but brief, cessation.
We have now arrived and enter “The Warm Glow“, where keys, minimalist drums, and almost whispered vocals reattach themselves to our heartstrings. There, the music tugs us along this emotive path as the now effect-laden voice narrates things a bit more aggressively. The music matching that vibe as well, with slight builds in tension as a somewhat staccato guitar solos but soon, a bittersweet feeling grips us tight. Bittersweet for we stand at a cusp, where one point is succulent with the re-emergence of an innate sense of hope, one returning to fuel our spirits, thus revealing the limitless scope before us.
Yet, bitter because the other point is the realization that though “Suspended In Reflections” we may be with ANCESTORS, the end of this mega-fantastical recording now looms. Its finalé lingering, drawing nearer and nearer and eventually, arriving to our temporary dismay.
Thankfully, a return journey is merely a “Play” button push away… and push away you shall, I dare surmise. This is the triumphant return of ANCESTORS, a pinnacle if you will, and truly one of their finest recorded moments… created then captured for our collective posterity.
Just as this review was going to press, it was announced that ANCESTORS will be joining ELDER on the first part of their upcoming European Tour this fall. Here’s the itinerary (below) for the ANCESTORS leg which includes several festival appearances including: Doom Vs. Stoner, Up In Smoke, DesertFest Belgium, Into The Void, and Keep It Low 2018.
29.09. UK – Sheffield, O2 Academy, Doom vs. Stoner Festival*
30.09. UK – Glasgow, The Audio*
01.10. UK – Leeds, TBA*
02.10. UK – Manchester, The Rebellion*
03.10. UK – Coventry, The Phoenix*
04.10. UK – Bristol, The Fleece*
05.10. UK – London, Garage*
06.10. CH – Pratteln, Up In Smoke Festival*
07.10. I – Milan, Legend*
08.10. I – Bologna, Freak Out / Locomotive*
09.10. I – Rome, Evol*
10.10. I – Fabriano, Sonic Room*
11.10. CRO – Zagreb, Vintage Industrial Bar*
12.10. HUN – Budapest, Dürer Kert*
14.10. B – Antwerp, Trix, Desertfest Belgium*
15.10. GER – Hannover, Chez Heinz*
16.10. GER – Berlin, S036*
17.10. GER – Dortmund, Junkyard*
18.10. F – Paris, Glazart*
19.10. NL – Leeurwarden, Neushoorn, Into the Void*
20.10. GER – Munich, Feierwerk, Keep It Low*
21.10. A – Vienna, Arena*
*All dates feature ANCESTORS and ELDER