The Ancients 2/White Woods, Bellplay (Sensory Projects)

The Ancients 2 supports any occasion, be it solemn (lovemaking, funeral), or unfortunate (stranded on a desert island/dateless night). The few times I tried to write this album up I hesitated. Street Funk was such a jam I just wanted to get down to it, revel in it and not have to think about it. This is probably due to the meteor shower of melody that rains down from it, from all over: the monstrous keyboard hook, the buoyant guitar that recalls Graham Coxon at his Blur-riant best and an ace beat from the ravishing Raquel that neatly clicks and pops. I’ll give Mark credit for the whammy bar in the chorus because I can’t give Jon all the credit.

Anyway this is a sterling guitar record and droll as all get out. Opening salvo: “Moving to the Street Funk/the invisible power/ looking through the street junk from a luxury shower,” sung by Jon and it’s safe to assume there’s a view out the window of his expensive shower (perhaps he has gold taps) to the street where someone’s left their junk. Other lines jump out (“jump into the rainbow in the media age”) — reminding me of, I don’t know what: pogoing asshats in bursting jodhpurs reading the news to kids?

The lyrics evoke otherworldliness (“he lives on a monastery on a mountain of bad dreams”) and paint nice pictures (“she drank the black mead and saw what the world needs/ her holographic horse she rode to the bottom of the sea”). On Rising Seas, the whimsy is suburbanized. All the sadness of life is here: broken tambourines, sax players in dead bars, seeing your boss drink until he cries. The nail in the coffin? “Singing Kokomo and songs you almost know.” Ouch.

The influence of Felt is felt all over. So many lovely filigrees I think Jon’s hand must hurt! Raquel and bassist Georgina sing harmonies on Christine that is like the early-girly Origami being lushly “Felt” up (The analogy isn’t perfect because Origami are lesbians).

Mark has found a weird uncle figure in Syd Barrett. His songs have a lugubrious doped quality that plays well here. Stoner trick on Missing Page is the descending bassline that pulls you down to a height no less strange.

And could the woebegone weekend be expressed anymore dolefully than Nathan Gray’s trumpet on the perfectly-titled Sunday Evening? A Patriot’s Duty, ironic or not, is one fat jam, a smart conclusion to a great album.

Jon’s now made, to these ears, four classic Australian albums (three from Mum Smokes and now this): urbane, wry, dry-humored with wonderfully observed details of Australia and all its walks of life. They’re also musically rich rock records with gorgeous guitar tones and spacey effects.

A good indication of a successful album is not to desire any other album while your listening to it and this also applies to lovemaking as well. When you are doing the wild thing, presumably it is with someone you care about and that person should be the only person you are thinking about — this is one way of saying that Ancients 2 inspires faithfulness and devotion.

Released on Sensory around the same time, Bellplay is like a low-rent Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, crepuscular and Tasmanian, made by nice people who like dark stuff. You can hear the machinations at work, every cog, grinding and droning, Rotwang giving them no slack, the band, in turn, growing delirious with repetition, the kind of workforce that achieves one-hundred percent efficiency for the quarter and spends their bonus on LaMonte Young bootlegs. A lot of people complained about the shit-stained recording, but I’m totally fine with it.


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