- When Anthony Child and Dan Bean recorded Modern Methods For Ancient Rituals, they dragged their assortment of electronic and acoustic instruments to a secluded barn in the countryside and recorded, over a 24-hour period, what you might call a musical séance. The environment often influences creative processes, not least in the case of ambient, drone-led music. When explicit rhythms, tempos and melodies are not at your disposal, it's natural to want to draw on your surroundings for inspiration. Listening to the end results, it's easy to buy into the headspace Child and Bean placed themselves in. The LP reverberates with the ancient timber frame of the building, undulating with the rolling Cotswold hills surrounding the barn. With a little imagination, the abundant resonant tones impart a vision of a candlelit ceremony.
In reality, Cats Abbey, where the album was recorded, is a holiday rental property fitted with all the comforts of the modern age, and it's quite comical to imagine these mammoth drones disseminating through a space commonly inhabited by families on a weekend getaway. What's important, though, is the feeling that Child and Bean evoke. When, on "Barrington Park," you hear hand bells chiming amid the tidal washes of drone and effects feedback, you might well picture cloaked figures engaged in arcane ritual.
The use of traditional instruments is key, as they shift the focus away from purely synthesized tones. The pealing sound of what might be a hurdy-gurdy cuts through the mix on "Ampney Crucis," but elsewhere the blend is subtler. The album reaches a crescendo with "Sun Hill," where the individual tones seem to separate and take on a life of their own, independent of the droney mass. In the middle of all that, the faint suggestion of pastoral melody can be heard—a hymnal refrain that sounds as though it comes from a distant past.
It's here the "ancient" part of the album concept can be most acutely felt, tapping into the pagan history from which Child and Bean seemed to draw. It doesn't matter whether the LP represents an accurately researched history or an imagined, romantic notion of folkloric tradition. The pair are simply expressing their own fascination with the mystery and mysticism of long-forgotten tradition through an evocative medium.
02. Upper Windrush
03. Barrington Park
04. Ampney Crucis
05. Nether Westcote
06. Sun Hill