As Lespecial points out regarding their third full-length album, Ancient Homies, the number three figures prominently into the band’s ethos – for instance, as a power trio and with their tri-face logo.
The new album also features three “Homie Improvs” (incidentally, tracks 3, 6 and 9) whose musical scale “is based around an unstable tonic, containing small chromatic groupings of three notes and has a cryptic, ambiguous and almost mystical quality.” These tracks feature all three members flexing their chops and stretching in new ways: Luke Bemand (bass, synth, samples), Rory Dolan (drums, sampler) and Jonny Grusauskas (guitar, keys, sampler, vocals).
Interspersing the Homie interludes as they do throughout Ancient Homies also has the effect of pairing the remaining eight songs with each other. The track list born from that decision just flows excellently.
The first couplet pairs the album’s first single “Snell’s Fleet” with a new remix of the long standing fan favorite “The Vessel.” At Lespecial’s October 9, 2020 drive-in show in Falmouth, MA, they opened the second set with this one-two punch and it was breathtaking. “Snell’s Fleet” evokes that timeless, mystical quality the band is known for. Up tempo with heavy, scuzzy guitar riffs, driving bass line and bombastic drum play, “Snell’s Fleet” crashes right into track two. “The Vessel” then shifts gears into a much more futuristic vibe. The combination of synth bounce, driving drums and funky bass can move an entire room, pulsing and pumping in a great wave. “The Vessel” debuted live onstage in 2012 and has finally found its way to vinyl.
The second grouping of songs, at first glance, appear to be the most curious on the album in that the songs are quite dissimilar. “Repeater” slows down the tempo and features lilting, ethereal vocals. The synth work drives the song forward, but has an altogether different feel to it than most of Lespecial’s music to date. And Rory’s fast, frenetic drumming in latter portion of the song is pure magic. Bringing us right into “Tonberry,” which made its live debut at Lespectacle IX in November 2019. Starting with a slow building eeriness that explodes into thunder around the one minute mark, then into the scale bending this album explores in the following passage. Around the halfway point of the song, Lespecial brings us into a funky, groovy movement and then circles right back to bombastic fury that bring the song home.
The next pairing is a synth heavy, fun filled duo. “Machine Elf” bounces back to futuristic sound that grooves with Luke’s bass tones anchoring things. Released as a single in January 2019, it slides perfectly right into this slot on the album. The latter half of this pairing is “Egg Time” and it wastes little time grinding into the funkiest, filthiest groove. Impossible to sit still to, this one is going to be a staple of Lespecial set lists for years to come. An instant classic.
The final pairing of songs on the album are quite engrossing, and will be unexpected to many fans. “Boundary Dissolution” slows things down again. With a more stripped down arrangement and hauntingly introspective vocals from Jonny, this one stays with the listener long after it ends. And “Tritome” (yet another “three”) features beautiful piano work from Jonny that reprises “Snell’s Fleet,” ending this amazing album with a wow.
Lespecial really delivers on the promise of adventure and exploration here. It feels like the band is still growing and defining who they are. It is a pleasure to witness their evolution. Ancient Homies is hands down my favorite release of 2020. Give it a listen and see what you think.
Key Tracks: Snell’s Fleet, Tonberry, Egg Time
Ancient Homies is available for purchase on Bandcamp and for streaming on all platforms.