Ancient Ocean

Blood Moon

Blood Moon, the debut full length from Brooklyn-based artist Ancient Ocean (aka John Bohannon), is a rich and mesmerising work that flirts with New York’s avant-garde heritage, but really comes alive in its creator’s personal experiences and homage to nature.

Bohannon’s most apparent musical tradition is rooted in the experimentalism of his immediate geographical environs – New York. His influences, which include the likes of avant-garde maniacism of La Monte Young and Terry Riley, are scrawled lightly across the four-songs that make up Blood Moon. The indeterminacy and audio-visual interpretation that caused New York to explode in the 1960s is bottled here by Bohannon, and is presented in a rich, ambient package. As such, the album sometimes seems to long for the riotous diversity and performance aesthetic of the likes of Young’s Compositions 1960, but constrained by Ancient Ocean’s polished electronics, lacks the intense spontaneity of the scene.

Instead, the album opens softly and rarely raises its voice above a whisper. The title track and opener undulates with synths, boosted by the warp and weft of fellow Brooklyners Jonas Reinhardt and psy-influences of Woodsman’s Mark Demolar.

The album’s shortest cut moves into the American Frontier strains of ‘Beargrass Creek’, Ancient Ocean’s first opportunity to open up the evocative landscapes that Bohannon marked out on previous outings, but never had the space to present. Plaintive strings overlay recordings of the sound of the aforementioned creek, a place of Bohannon’s childhood. The song is immersive; the bubbling of the water sluicing inches below disorientating snatches of bowed banjo and processed piano brings a physicality to the scene.

‘Absolution’, by comparison, is brash and confrontational. A cathedral of noise, quite fitting for a song based on the notion of challenging faith, it lacks the immediate intimacy of its predecessor. As interviews with the man indicate, the song was written to deal with the idea of universal sin and an establishment (i.e. the Church) being able to write that off in one fell swoop. Bohannon’s composition, which lacks an exalting moment of clarity, is a suitable commentary on his continuing uncertainty on the topic.

’Winter Half-Light’ is another step away, pushing off from the miasmic soliloquy of ‘Absolution’, and out into more radiant territories. The passage is hypnotic, demanding more and more of your attention, until you suddenly realise you’re hunched forward, straining to hear the shimmering refrain that sits on the edge of earshot.

Blood Moon benefits endlessly from Ancient Ocean’s soft, almost tentative touch. In paring down the bruising drone assault and moving more towards the interpretive stance of the Fluxus scene, Bohannon encourages the listener to actively pay attention to the music. Branches of his own richly descriptive personal experience and some choice guest inclusions are interspersed throughout the record, which takes the album from being a decent interpretation of the drone genre to a rich, ambient journey filled with lush landscapes.

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