Posted by: Necci – Jun 13, 2012
I don't know if it's possible to pinpoint the exact moment that the recent resurgence of psychedelia began to shift into full swing, or what catalyzed it, but it seems like the past few years have witnessed a glut of bands exploring music's trippier realms. Maybe musicians realized that half-hour jam sessions are easier to concoct than actual compositions that would take the same amount of time. Maybe people started realizing that hallucinogens and Hawkwind are more interesting than PBR and whatever stale, flash-in-the-pan indie rock the internet was pushing. Regardless, there's been a lot of it, and it's rarely done right. A lot of self-indulgent wanking, dilletantish dabbling, and weird-for-weird's-sake image conscious posturing. But occasionally, worthwhile artist can push through the mountains of bullshit, and over the course of several releases, Brooklyn-based Ancient Sky has rapidly become one of those bands.
Initially featuring members of Majority Rule, Darkest Hour, Verse En Coma, and the criminally underrated Richmond band You Are The Drum, Ancient Sky pushed their music past some of the stylistic constraints that had often ensnared their previous bands. It was a hazy, mellow vision of psychedelia, one well-versed in its antecedents without sounding like they were playing dress up in their parents' tye-dyes. Their most recent release takes this a step further, with soaring vocal harmonies pushing out from washes of heavily-effected guitars, ambient shimmer building to cathartic climax, and an absolute unwillingness to let the songs stagnate. It's simultaneously less constrained by conventional song structure than the band's previous releases, and more memorable when those structures end up coming into play.
And that's one of the band's strongest characteristics. So many artists attempting this style are content to noodle along and think that what they're doing is worthwhile because it sounds good when they're high. But structure, even as a contrasting element for the improvisational aspects to work against, render Ancient Sky's music compelling. Psychedelia wasn't initially intended to be weird; it was supposed to be transcendent, a reflection of humanity's inherent creative spirit as a means to commune with larger forces. And there's some of this gleeful energy to T.R.I.P.S., an abandonment of convention, an upward build in which tightly-wound melodic passages leap-frog over loose-limbed off-the-cuff instrumentals, constantly pushing the songs forward and never letting them linger too long on a single idea. The songs ebb and flow, building from the hushed drone that precedes opener “Towards The Light” into heavier and more expansive realms, but never dwells anywhere for too long.
This sense of dynamics is the important thing to consider with Ancient Sky. By exploring a wide tonal range, they prevent easy categorization and reinforce the impression that they're living up to their full creative potential. It's easy to define them by what they don't do, the traps they fail to fall into, but what they have turned into is worthy of note. Their newest album helps to push this type of music forwards, side-stepping cliché and posturing, and creating something vivacious, an ever-evolving stream of ideas that reflects everything that psychedelic music can do right. Theirs is a triumphant, animated aesthetic, the sound of a band really coming into their own and creating something notable.
By Graham Scala