At the end of the last Ice Age proper (ca.100,000 years ago – if any geologists want to correct me, feel free), there was an river that flowed through Siberia and that was more than twice the length of the Nile, and discharged nearly three times as much water as the Amazon. Although such a monster is gone for the foreseeable future, it still leaves traces – sediment that it brought from Eastern Russia can be found in parts of Northern Turkey; seals found in the Caspian Sea are thought to be related to those found in Lake Baikal (north of Mongolia); the list goes on. The point is, even though something is gone, it still leaves traces of its previous existence – and that leads nicely onto Keeper of the Dawn, by Ancient River; a joint project from James Barretto and Alex Cordova.
The secretive band sound as though they haven’t listened to any releases since Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The soundscape is that of an early-seventies prog group making a precocious statement. The combination of the airy guitar and the barely-audible vocals make for a compellingly sparse, though strangely dense, listening experience. The album seems creative, without ever falling into the trap of sounding too self-indulgent (as many prog groups have, and ultimately will).
Prog dominated rock in a way that nothing else has before or since, everything from Sgt. Pepper’s to Wish You Were Here only bookmarked prog. But then, as suddenly as it appeared, it went, almost completely and totally. Why? It is one of life’s mysteries. As soon as the seventies ended, prog seemed to vanish except for a few bands who soldiered on (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull). However it’s exuberances are here and plain to see. Seven-minute songs do get a bit wearing, especially when they all sound rather similar; and it does get a bit tedious constantly straining to hear lyrics that you know won’t make any sense. Although it never sounds too up-itself, it never sounds totally down-to-earth either; perhaps that particular shortcoming may be a personal one.
In conclusion, this a great example of modern prog-rock, and despite everything said above it’s a likeable album. It certainly shouldn’t be dismissed on its first listen but instead applauded for attempting to revisit a genre that will in-time come full circle – as most musical tastes do. Certainly fans of prog will embrace this release, while those unfamiliar with it may need a gentle shove in its rough direction.
‘Keeper of the Dawn’ is out now