Anyone of a certain vintage may recall those mindbending children’s toys which you held to your eye, twisted, and then stood hypnotized by an evolving colourful crescendo of interchanging patterns.
If you don’t get one in your Christmas stocking this year then possibly the nearest alternative is The Horse and Other Weird Tales, the recently released third album of the wonderful Jess and The Ancient Ones.
The Finns are full of feelgood hippy chic without ever sounding staid or old hat. This is modern music for today albeit of a type with its roots stretching back one, if not more probably two, generations.
Often seen as an occult band, if they are then it is in the similar inviting shape as Canadians’ Blood Ceremony. Hell, if the Devil really plays music this good then the pearly gates of Heaven are unlikely to attract much business in the future.
‘Death is the Doors’ is a refreshingly engaging album opener which comes sealed with a joyous urgency and upbeat grooves through which Jess delights with her prodigious singing voice. ‘Shining’ is a deathly story but once that simply throbs with life. On ‘Your Exploding Heads’ the pace initially is more tapered before a few well connected riffs invite Jess to raise the ante and give full license to sparkle, bellowing the song’s title with glee.
The songs come thick and fast, nine of them shoehorned into just over half-an-hour. Jess is a wonderful singer and on the ballad ‘You and Eyes’ pulls at the heartstrings with her melancholic diction before some hairy riffs arrive to drop a few pebbles into the soothing waters. This though is one of the album’s more poignant and emotive songs with some haunting guitar solo complementing the sorrowful lines from Jess.
On the brief instrumental ‘Radio Aquarius’ a dubbed radio-style broadcast about lysergic acid remains in the background as gently caressing grooves dart in and out while the 70s drug vibe extends to the much more animated ‘Return to Hallucinate’ in which Jess skips joyously through some thrusting riff attacks from her bandmates.
If Jess naturally takes much of the attention guitarist Thomas Corpse is also integral to the Kuopio collective, as he composes much of the music and is also responsible for the wonderful Sgt Pepper style explosion of colour on the sleeve artwork.
With some psychedelic keyboard work ‘(Here Comes) The Rainbow Mouth’ and ‘Minotaure’ race by in a blur of flared grooves and luscious lines thick enough to hand your washing on.
The final track, ‘Anyway The Minds Flow’ is also the longest and it shows the other side of Jess and the Ancient Ones, less frivolous, more intense and painting the sonic soundscape in much darker shades. The tempo is much more restrained with some ambient twinkling in the distance giving the album closer an even trippier texture than previously stitched together.
This is an album that would be difficult to tire of, it’s full of earthy expression and in Jess, the Ancient Ones are blessed with a genuinely creative singer that revels in the freedom she finds to manoeuvre in within these cryptically crafted songs.