“.. the name (Ancestral Voices) comes from the idea that knowledge and wisdom are passed down aurally, sonically, and experientially into our time for us to learn the laws of Nature …” – excerpt from an Ancestral Voices interview for XLR8R
Ancestral Voices is the side-project of British producer Liam Blackburn. Widely known in the electronic music circles for his solo outputs under his primary recording alias Indigo, as well as his collaborative work with Synkro for the acclaimed hybrid electronic outfit Akkord, Blackburn created Ancestral Voices to be a musical platform exempt from genre restrictions, formulaic constraints, expectations and musical agendas.
With prior releases on prestigious labels like Exit, Auxiliary, Apollo, Samurai Red Seal and Samurai Horo among others, as well as being affiliated with producers and label owners, who share the same musical ethos and vision, Ancestral Voices didn’t have to look elsewhere for a creative home. In fact, his long-term relationship with Geoff Wright (DJ Presha), the label owner of Samurai Music, who used to be Blackburn’s agent and later his mentor, provided him with the artistic freedom to re-invent his sound; hence Ancestral Voices found his natural habitat on Wright’s pristine experimental label Samurai Horo.
Liam Blackburn reflects on the transition from Indigo to Ancestral Voices:
“… similar soundscapes and rhythm programming, but with a completely different feeling; I tried to keep it accessible for fans of my Indigo material whilst moving forward to gain a wider audience that has nothing to do with the scenes and pigeonholes I became part of…”
Blackburn’s rich musical heritage, as well his artistic versatility to draw from a broad palette of influences, sounds and experiences, culminated in his exquisite debut concept album aptly entitled Night Of Visions. The album is an allegoric sonic narrative of past experiences; a “stream of consciousness” account of an otherworldly present. A musical diary with allusions to religions, mythology and traditions from different continents and civilizations long lost, implicit references to shamanism, rituals and spiritual healing, the Night Of Visions is a futuristic sci-fi lullaby, that you don’t want to end until the first light of day.
Inside the album – Background notes and thoughts
The first things that intrigued me when I purchased the album were the artwork and the track titles. I have listened to it as a continuous track, as well as in fragments skipping through tracks, trying to figure out if it is a sound collage of seemingly abstract designs or a cryptic story with successive chapters. I concluded on the latter, so I will try to articulate my own perception of the narrative instead of a strictly musical review. Needless to say that the brief analysis below to capture the essence of the album is completely arbitrary and probably nowhere near Ancestral Voices’ actual vision and purpose; nonetheless I believe that the value of an artistic product is to create different emotions, thoughts and interpretations. A few background notes about the track titles are cited also. The track list below pertains to the digital version of the album.
The opening track of the album Night Of Visions sets an evocative, dramatic tone with glacier synths, metallic stabs and sounds of gates screeching as they open, leading to an uncharted territory. Ritual Terre increases the tension with a hypnotic tribal percussion and a buzz, like lights in a morgue turning on and off. Entering the Selva glade, normal breathing is temporarily restored, before getting lost again in the dense dark wood. In Medicina, preparations for the ritual are being made with haunting synths, rattling chains, subtle indecipherable chants and high pitched calls of a scavenger. In Invocation, metallic and wooden objects are dangling and rattling. A drum beat, unrestricted to a regular accent, creates the bridge between the imaginary and the actual. In La Purga, industrial, eerie sounds exacerbate reality; arcane truths and fears are unfolding. In Arachnae1 the drum patterns represent the joining of strands of fabric into an integrated web, the geometry of creation. The integration of minimal and complex, intricate structures, borrowing from the immediacy of techno, represents the dual nature of The Feathered Serpent2. The beautiful, euphoric strings of Paititi3 are the sonic equivalent of the glistening light of gems, gold and silver found in abundance in the city treasury. Rebirth & Dissolution is an epic ambient composition, dispensing the old, creating available space for the new. The highlight of the album and the epilogue of a captivating journey is Sleepless Night, First Light; an abrupt return to a dull, unimaginative reality.
1Arachnae means spiders in Latin. In Greek mythology, Arachne was a talented mortal weaver, who challenged Athena, goddess of wisdom and crafts, into a weaving contest; this hubris resulted in her being transformed into a spider.
2The Feathered Serpent was a prominent supernatural entity or deity, found in many Mesoamerican religions. Divine as it can reach the sky flying and human as it crawls/walks on the ground.
3A utopian, legendary Inca lost city, located in the middle of the tropical jungle called Paititi by the natives.
Release Notes and Remix series
Night Of Visions was officially released by Samurai Horo on October, 2015 in vinyl and digital format. The vinyl album sampler contains 4 tracks: Medicina, La Purga, In My Blood and Vine Of The Soul; the last two are vinyl exclusives and are not included in the digital versions. The deluxe vinyl edition (2×12” marbled vinyl) has 9 tracks and an extra A4 colour artwork insert. The cd version contains 11 tracks (Medicina and La Purga are the two additional tracks to the vinyl version) and is still available from the label’s store here (the vinyl edition is sold out).
A playlist with all the album tracks:
To further celebrate the brilliant album, Samurai commissioned a series of remixes, split into two parts to complete the album trilogy. In the remixers’ shortlist feature renowned label artists and affiliates: Abdulla Rashim (representing Northern Electronics), Samuel Kerridge (representing Contort), ASC & Sam KDC (representing Auxiliary) and Pact Infernal (representing Samurai Horo) have been asked to reconstruct album highlights in their own unique style. Each producer has chosen their own track from the album to work with.
Part 1 – Press Release
The first name on the remix list was Swedish producer and Northern Electronics label head Abdulla Rashim. Choosing Invocations, his remix focuses on the hypnotic power of the original, turning the tune into a golden loop with subtle kick drum stabs, sweeping percussion and a dangling tension that hangs through the entire 7.33 minutes. ASC & Sam KDC chose The Feathered Serpent and using just touches of the original tune have masterfully built an all new backbone that demonstrates clearly the ability of the “Grey Area” sound to work at 2 different tempo’s and weld together with straight techno.
Audio and purchase links:
Part 2 – Press Release
Samuel Kerridge requested to use parts of 2 different tunes and marry them in one remix. Elements from Sleepless Night, First Light and Ritual Terre are dissected, reversed and used as haunting ghost like layers that coil themselves around an assortment of off kilter drum hits, guttural murmurs and sound effects that often feel like they are designed to test the flexibility of your speaker cones. Vine Of The Soul gets the Pact Infernal treatment – all rattling percussion and high drama, there’s a sense of dread that dominates the atmosphere, but this time it’s combined with a ghoulish operatic layer. Perhaps the most overt of all the Pact Infernal productions, it just may be a forecast of what’s to come for the debut Pact Infernal LP, due in late 2016.
Audio and purchase links:
Artwork by Ryan Quinlivan at “RQ Product”.
Photos and Press Releases courtesy of “Modern Matters”.
The full Ancestral Voices interview on XLR8R here