Lexington, Ky.’s Ancient Warfare are veterans of Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival (among other regular area visits) and will return in late September to perform at 2015’s MPMF. This week, the four-piece will be previewing its upcoming MPMF appearance and also celebrating the release of its great debut album, The Pale Horse, by playing a free show at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub. The full-length is being released nationally the day before the band’s local stop (Aug. 11) on Alias Records, which was home to several great releases in the ’90s by the likes of American Music Club, Archer’s of Loaf, Yo La Tengo and Cincinnati’s own Throneberry and is now releasing new music once again.
The seeds of Ancient Warfare were planted in late 2009 when singer/guitarist Echo Wilcox was writing songs while studying at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. She took some songs to Duane Lundy, producer and owner of Shangri-La studios in Lexington, where great Kentucky-based artists like Vandaveer, Cheyenne Mize and Ben Sollee have worked. Lundy agreed to produce and engineer an album with Wilcox and, using a rotating case of musicians, they began work on it in 2011. During the recording process, Ancient Warfare (as a band) was born and began touring regularly, playing with artists like Richard Buckner, The War on Drugs and many others. Wilcox is joined in Ancient Warfare by drummer/keyboardist/singer Emily Hagihara (a solo artist and member of the band Chico Fellini who has also worked with Kentucky artists like Jim James, Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore), violinist Rachael Yanarella and newest member Derek Rhineheimer, who played with Yanarella in the band Oh My Me.
The four years in the studio working on The Pale Horse were well worth it. The album is an engrossing listen. Spacious, haunting and soulful, the music conjures dusty, dusky Old West visions at times, leading critics to accurately describe the soundscapery as “cinematic,” which is perhaps at least partially the result of Wilcox’s visual art background (she studied photography and motion graphics at SCAD). The resulting album brings to mind a spine-tingling blend of Calexico, Patti Smith, Mazzy Star and Nick Cave. The group’s description of itself as “Southern Gothic” on its Facebook page is pitch perfect.