Album Review: JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES The Horse And Other Weird Tales
There aren't a lot of bands out there that truly reflect the power of witchy 60s psych rock and balance it with modern mastery. Most bands are happy with facile rip offs of Coven, or if they are really trying Black Widow, and are willing to call it a day after tossing together reverbed out vocals with some loud stoner rock riffs. This hardly ever works out well and in fact has led to the creation of one of the worst tropes in a crowded scene, female fronted 'doom' whose only asset is that it's female fronted. That's not at all what Jess And The Ancient Ones need to rely on though to prove that they are the real deal. With their third full length, The Horse And Other Weird Tales we see a band with a deep understanding of both 60s psychedelia and modern songwriting, fusing the best of old and new in order to create something truly powerful and incredibly fascinating. It's a record you can really sink your teeth into and which encourages the listener to spin time and time again.
The keys that separate The Horse And Other Weird Tales from countless imitators are subtle but clearly present. I'm talking about things like using fuzz rather than proper distortion, heavily featuring the organ and choosing tones that are much more indicative of the 60s than I think a lot of bands are willing to go. At times this borders on cheesy, but that's where the modern sensibilities of Jess And The Ancient Ones come in. Rather than dipping into the slightly silly excesses of some of their predecessors (Or at least silly to our ears in 2017) Jess And The Ancient Ones have create something that is ominous and emotionally powerful. The compositions are elegantly executed and at times even alienating as a result of their dedication to older tropes that we might not be as comfortable with as listeners. This is a huge selling point for nerds like me because it speaks to a band who are willing to do things their way and damn the consequences.
This sense of authenticity allows The Horse And Other Weird Tales to feel much more substantive than many similar releases coming out these days. Rather than falling into the 'Oooh witchcraft!' hole that so many 'edgy goth' bands seem to be pushing towards, The Horse And Other Weird Tales shows us a band obsessed with Hawkwind and who perhaps even treasure Arthur Brown. The band is unafraid to wear their influences on their collective sleeve and properly reflect on the impact they had on modern music. They create sounds that are mystical and weird and while that might take a while to wrap your head around it only makes the listener want to delve even further. Jess And the Ancient Ones have separated themselves so far from their peers that it can't help but to fascinate and it proves again and again that The Horse And Other Weird Tales is must listen material for any fan of psychedelic classic rock obscura.