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Ancestral Songs

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Album Review

Daniel Higgs' first solo album available in more than an obscure limited edition, Ancestral Songs is an old-fashioned piece of cracked acid folk. The opening track,"Living in the Kingdom of Death, has the obsessively repetitive lyrical structure of a Jandek song, though its simple and rather traditional acoustic folk setting is considerably less studied in its strangeness than is Jandek's wont. The ten-minute-plus epic "Thy Chosen Bride" is in two parts, the first being a melodic improvisation for solo banjo that suddenly shifts into a sparse, somewhat disturbing poetic reading delivered over slow, unchanging banjo strums. The truly strange "Moharsing and Schoenhut" follows, a lo-fi, distorted duet for jaw harp and toy piano that makes both of those seemingly child-like instruments sound like implements of destruction. An eleven-and-a-half minute drone for distorted electric guitar, "Are You of the Body?" follows; the first half is pleasant but unremarkable, but when a second, finger-picked acoustic, guitar shows up about five-and-a-half minutes in, it turns into an intriguing duet that recalls ex-Sun City Girls' guitarist Sir Richard Bishop's solo turns. The delicate "O Come and Walk Along" leans more toward the old-fashioned Incredible String Band side of contemporary acid folk, with Higgs' atypically low, growled vocal taking place of the fey warble one might normally expect from the sprightly acoustic tune. Finally, "Time Ship of the Demogorgon" returns to the lo-fi distortion and improvisational electric guitar of the album's two central pieces, although in this case, the sound is compressed and tinny enough that it sounds like the churning, slashing guitar solo was recorded onto a cheap cassette deck and then played back through a microphone to the mixing board. Ancestral Songs is a defiantly odd record, but in so many different fashions that it seems like Higgs (who's considerably better known as the leader of the long-running Washington D.C. post-punk act Lungfish) is experimenting in various oddball personas rather than making any sort of personal artistic statement.


Born: 1964 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With the appearance of a heavily bearded tattooed prophet, Daniel Higgs emerged from the early-'80s Baltimore/D.C. hardcore punk scene as an underground icon with a near-mythological status. He sharpened his teeth in the music scene as a wild-eyed vocalist in the legendary Baltimore hardcore group Reptile House. Brewing a dark psychedelic sound with early-'80s hardcore energy and aesthetics, they earned a solid following and a lasting reputation due to debauchery at their live shows. The group disbanded...
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Ancestral Songs, Daniel Higgs
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