Ancient Ocean sound very much as you’d expect Ancient Ocean to sound like. Slotting next to your Kranky and Low Point records, Blood Moon is a swirling, droning affair that leaves you swimming in a rich sea of aural delight. Dip your toe and you’re soon immersed. Out on CD and vinyl LP from Beyond Is Beyond.
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You know ambient has gone too far when someone’s playing the bowed banjo. I’m pretty sure we could just get the same sound out of slowing down a Mumford & Sons music video on YouTube, but Ancient Ocean have opted to go the more grassroots route. The musician tasked with the bowing is Aaron Martin, who’s recently been releasing astonishing release after astonishing release, starting with ‘Comet’s Coma’ over on the warmest of drone labels Eilean. Here he works with about four different synthlords and piano processor J. S. Aurelius for a record that strives to tone typically cold electronics into a natural, washy sound.
With this many bleating on synths, a record tends to get a sharper and more linear sound than this; Sarah Davachi has released two howling synth masterstrokes this year, while acts like CRIMEWAVE and Raica have been making chilling, uncomfortable music in the same vein. Ancient Ocean somehow manage to create a far more layered atmosphere, coating the synth in distanced piano notes and crackling field recordings. There’s a whole ecosystem in ‘Blood Moon’, and often the synths strive to be only a minimalist factor in proceedings, the record presenting many different contours. “Beargrass Creek” spends most of its time presenting the setting before rising into a flurry of unresolved strings and processed sax.
This is a beautifully tense record that should satiate lovers of both dark and light ambient sounds; it has the continuous moan-sounds that Dirty Beaches’ offered on ‘Stateless’ while offering the melodic dusk of Secret Pyramid. Though it’s a given, I guess I should say that anything Aaron Martin is associated with is gonna be real pretty. Let’s band around the banjo.
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