Review: The Horse and Other Weird Tales by Jess and the Ancient Ones

Wish I could say I was in here at the start about 5 years ago but I have to admit this is a new one for me. A song “Anyway the Mind Flows” appeared on my Spotify Release radar, I liked the title (any way the window blows, do you see?) and listened. Then I listened to the Finnish band’s whole album (of which Anyway… is the final track) and their whole back catalogue. More of that another time though (It’s very good) this is a review of their latest, The Horse and Other Weird Tales.

Psychedelic

The lightest of their works “the Horse” lacks most of the doomy bass their back catalogue features, the album is none the worse for that. To me it sounds like Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane, etc.) fronted the early Blue Öyster Cult with a little more keyboard and a shitload more samples. The Doors too are definitely in there someway and indeed the album starts with a song called “Death is the Doors”. This starts off with a Ray Manzarek-esque keyboard solo before exploding into prime high-paced psychedelia.

There’s a lot of light and shade on this albeit quite short album. Quiet interludes give way to fast paced organ-led riffs, with choppy guitar and bass rumbles, then a fairly muted guitar solo will come in that any metal guitarist would be proud of – but for the production. That is absolutely not to say the production on this album is bad, it’s just more laid back than it could be, something I feel is a conscious decision. If everything was up-front then things could get overwhelming pretty fast.

The classy “You and Eyes” is a great example of the varied approach within the song framework. A slow, almost bluesy vocal is interrupted by the crunch of a guitar which leads to a mid-paced organ riff, backed by the guitar and accompanied by Jess’s sublime voice. This reaches the heights before melting back into the organ riff/guitar and then explodes into short high-paced vocal sample section before going back to the bluesy beginning style. And we’re only half way into a 7 minute song. It’s superb and I haven’t even mentioned the bass or guitar solos.

Fragmented minds

Thematically the album seems to be about LSD, perception, altered states and the mind in general. Most of the samples are about introspection, self, fragmentation of the mind and so on. The final song, the aforementioned “Anyway the Mind Flows”, needs special mention in this regard. The song is about the JD Salinger novel Catcher in the Rye and includes extensive samples from Mark Chapman, the psychotically disturbed man who shot john Lennon. Chapman was fascinated with the novel and indeed was reading it at the scene of his crime when arrested.

I don’t know what it is about Finns and music but they’re clearly a thoughtful bunch and don’t give a fuck about being cool. “The Horse” is full of exemplary musical aptitude and Jess the female singer is a rare talent with a wide vocal range and extraordinary power to her voice. The whole thing drips class and even if you aren’t into 70’s psychedelic rock this would be an excellent place to start.

5/5

The album on Spotify

Jess and the Ancient Ones on Facebook

 

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