Summer 2021 began optimistically, shots in arms and money in pockets. This optimism, while not dead, has wilted in the face of the Delta variant, that science offered us a miracle and so many squandered it. There’s simultaneously joy in our newfound armor, and sorrow for those we needlessly lost. Whatever your perspective, it’s not the “Hot Vax Summer” that Megan Thee Stallion promised us when she dropped “Thot Shit” in June.
One might find a more appropriate summer anthem in the haunting but lovely “Ancestors Watching” by New Zealand “enchantress pop” duo Purple Pilgrims. Comprised of multi-instrumentalist home producers Valentine and Clementine Nixon, they offer a unique brand of sprawling, choral haze and angelic noise. Though this track was penned pre-pandemic, off of 2019’s Perfumed Earth, the sisters prove almost prophetic with this track in its ability to capture the alternatively remarkable and dire times we find ourselves in. They premiere the video, also produced in 2019, on Audiofemme today.
Filmed “with our ancestors watching on (amused we presume), on our favorite dormant volcano” and directed by American psychedelic synth artist Gary War, the video evokes the Maypole dance ritual, an ancient celebration of oncoming warmer weather and new growth. Despite the hope inherent, there’s something melancholic and eerie about the pairing of the song and imagery, especially in light of the 2019 film Midsommar, which is impossible to ignore in this context. The uneasy balance it strikes was intentional – as in every song Purple Pilgrims write. “We always think it’s important to incorporate some element of darkness in everything we make, as we do light, it’s the natural balance of everything,” they explained via email. “There’s always something devastatingly sad in the most beautiful things – dualism is ever present.”
And what could be more devastatingly sad than to squander a miracle? The sisters’ harmonic vocals soothes the nerves, while sultry, gentle riffs, fuzzy around the edges, articulate the languish of this hazy humid August, teetering on the edge of uncertainty and soaked by torrential rains. Thematically, the song “is largely about being kind to oneself, and the idea that muddling our way through life can feel less daunting when we consider all our family branching out behind us, holding wisdom and strength,” they say. “It’s an idea that can offer comfort when we’re feeling lost.” Perhaps their relationship with their ancestors granted them the clairvoyance to write this song before we so desperately needed such beauty in our lives.
This comfort is something to cling to through these long summer days. The reality that our ancestors faced all manner of war, pestilence, and uncertainty – and survived – shows us that we are very much capable of doing the same, a mirror from the past that can anchor us to our present moment. As for Purple Pilgrims, they remain positive, noting that their next album is very much underway, something they can’t wait to share in the “not too distant gleaming future.” While we ultimately cannot determine how bright the future will gleam, we can still acknowledge our inherited resilience, and the way these trying times may hone it even sharper.
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