The first few tones of Night of Visions contort and strain against the fabric of the padded atmospheres that surround the lead sections. The album makes a prominent entrance as something that is not to be taken likely, yet hardly imposing. Everything finds its space in the densely populated textures that blow like an arctic wind through the opening title track of the debut from Ancestral Voices, the latest artistic pursuit of acclaimed producer Liam Blackburn (aka Indigo). It’s Blackburn’s first solo outing since establishing Akkord with Synkro (aka Joe Mcbride) and he takes elements of that project and directs it towards something primordial, some primitive voice that is buried deep in our subconscious and edges it’s way out through the music; an ancestral voice if you like.
As Ancestral Voices, Blackburn chooses to transpose this intrinsic inclination in human nature and de-stabilises it in an electronic palette, where the instinctual rhythms of our past meet a modern intellect. It’s in this cross-tide of contrasting elements, where simple animal-hide percussion meets the evocative soundscape of dreamy synthesisers that Night of Visions gets clouded in an aura of mysticism and intrigue. You are compelled to dive deeper into the music through the inherent human nature of the music. Unlike an ambient record, which would need time to gestate with the listener, Night of Visions’ effect is immediate. It’s as if everything happens in the moment but that moment is compressed into a single beat at each measure. There are tangible progressions to tracks like Ritual Terre, with the sluggish beat churning away at the imitative electronics stretching it out and distorting its surfaces, piquing the listener’s attention concurrently throughout a track.
And even though there’s a notable progression to each song on the album, there’s nothing quite like an album plot at play here. By the time you get to Feathered Serpent it seems that you’ve dropped in you in and out of a jumbled storyline. All the tracks are distinct, yet they stem from the same reference point, like they follow some skewed, undetermined timeline from a crucial moment in the past, not at all relative to each other but definitely related, related by something more akin to a feeling.
There are obvious references to this concept of ancestral voices, like the Gregorian chants on Medicina but Blackburn manipulates them defiantly in the modernised context of his sonic aesthetic, at which point they lose all their kitsch value. It happens too on the rhythm section on Invocations. The ancestral voices are those of ghosts and their perspective is obscured behind the layers of dissociation with the original construct, taking on very alien qualities that are familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. As a result they are mischievous in design and sinister in execution, but this mood is no stranger to Blackburn and he manipulates this to great effect, more than I feel he’d ever done before Night of Visions. Blackburn is never too far away from his roots on the dance floor either on this album and it shows on tracks like Feathered Serpent and La Purga with their familiar rhythmical beat, but like his work in Akkord, it’s the type of dance floor where solemnity reigns and the gentle sway of the upper body is all that’s encouraged. It’s an ethereal dance experience where the functionality is negated for only those essential moments it is required. Blackburn uses the percussive devices not in purpose of dancing, but rather like a punctuation mark that drives home the significance of a musical phrase ebbing and flowing with the tide of the music.
As Ancestral Voices Blackburn has probably found the next step of his musical evolution, and it looks like through his night of visions he’s peered into the future through this “subconscious journey” in music. It doesn’t deflect anything from the magnificence of Akkord or Indigo’s previous work, but as music grows old, Ancestral Voices genuinely look back while moving forward. It uses the primitive and intuitive elements of music that most artists take at face value and strips it bare of any of their cultural or nostalgic references, taking the subconscious ramblings of instinctive musical habits and refining it in the sound of the future. These are not exactly ancestral voices, but whispers of our own identity today and more significantly a whisper from the future, telling us we’re getting closer to narrowing the divide between impulse and flawless composition.