But Ancient Melodies feels trapped and suffocated in its mood. Only once, toward the end of a distressingly humdrum second half, does Martsch seem to achieve any sort of freedom. "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss" is the kind of weird, catchy thing that Martsch seems capable of writing in his sleep: buzzing mosquito guitar hook and solo (doubled on kazoo), the irresistible chants of "maybe" at the end of the second verse, the chorus wrapping around itself: "Fly around my pretty little miss/Why don't you."
It's the one time on Ancient Melodies that his lyrics achieve the same sense of heightened attentiveness as the music. I still can't get the sound Martsch makes out of my head. But he seems less and less sure why he might be making it.