Ancient Lights is an old English property law that gives people the right to receive natural light in their homes, it’s one of the few laws that doesn’t appear to have been created specifically to make money for lawyers, but I am probably being naive. It’s not clear why Uniting of Opposite chose the title for their debut album but it goes with the cosmic vibe of the music and the psych feel of the artwork. The imagery was created by Tokio Ayoama and is almost enough to sell the vinyl release alone, but thankfully the music is equally inspired and inspiring. It was made by a trio of musicians headed up by DJ/Producer Tim Liken (AKA Tim Deluxe, Double 99) who founded UK Garage label Ice Cream records, his cohorts are Clem Alford who was taught the sitar by Pandit Sachindra Nath Saha in the sixties and has been playing the instrument for musicians and film composers ever since. The third element is Ben Hazleton, a double bass player from the jazz universe who plays with the Toni Kofi Quartet among others. They are joined by drummer Eddie Hick (Sons of Kemet, Roots Manuva etc), Idris Rahman on clarinet, Manjeet Singh Rasiya on tabla and Marcina Arnold on vocals.
You can tell that they are going to make an exotic sound just from the instrumental line up and Ancient Lights does not disappoint on this front nor many others. Not all the musicians play on all tracks however, Dr Roach is created by the trio of clarinet, bass and drums which combine to make a hard driving groove where the chunkiness of the bass is perfect counterpoint to the fluidity of the clarinet, leaving the drums to give things just the right snap. On the opener Mints the clarinet seduces over bass and drums laying down an easy loping groove while a synth fizzes out on the perimeter of the soundfield. They’re joined by sitar and tabla to produce an intoxicating and heady sound that fuses east and west with considerable finesse. Arnold’s vocals only appear on the title track and then in a more instrumental role than a lyrical one but this adds more depth of tone to an already rich sound. It’s often the combination of thick, meaty double bass and squiggly higher pitched synth that underlies the eight tracks and these extremes broaden the sonic picture for the lead instruments to explore. Vortex Number 9 is just such a track but here the backing goes on a dub journey with added gravity that sounds particularly juicy on a big system.
The track named after the band is a darker affair with drone background and lots going on, this again has more to it than some systems will reveal and I found it to be a better experience on bigger speakers where the bass is a bit more open. Ancient Lights is a sublime sounding album and no doubt even nicer on the vinyl release. Whether such a variety of musicians are likely to go out on the road is debatable but with a good system you too can immerse yourself in this spicy musical soup from the comfort of your own couch, which seems like a good way to spend a hot summer evening.