Posts Tagged ‘El Paraiso’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Mythic Sunship

While Another Shape of Psychedelic Music might not radically reinvent its own genre the way Coleman did for jazz, or upend possibilities quite as much as The Refused did for punk, their latest for El Paraiso is an immersive and writhing organic beast that certainly reconfigures their own sound enough to warrant the wink on that title. The band’s Land Between Rivers was a stunner, raining down brimstone blasts of doom and psych in equal measures, charring pretty much everything in its wake to a carcinogenic crisp. On last year’s Upheaval, though, they got dense, maybe wandering a bit to far into their own heads and leaving the listener without the spark of unpredictability and terrifying edge-of-reality playing that marked their earlier release. They’re stoking the embers of that fire once again, though, on Another Shape and it feels good to see the madness back in their eyes.

The band incorporates free jazz and a heavier stroke of prog into their usual mix of doom, psych and motorik German references here. Saxophone splashes over every inch of the record, and the frantic squalls fit right into their particular maelstrom. From an opening cut that pushes past the fourteen-minute mark, to their skronk-greased breakdowns, it’s an album that’s not working off of any preconceived set of expectations. They’re playing purely to torch the turrets on their personal temples, channeling the heat of the blaze into a set that radiates genesis and destruction like never before.

The howl of sax seems to have awakened something in them and its great to have one of Scandinavia’s rawest units back in fine form. The record boasts some guidance from label co-head and Causa Sui member Jonas Munk. His production, along with the searing third guitar he’s lent to their gauntlet gives the album a lot of its vibrancy. There have been a lot of great psychedelic records this year, but Another Shape of Psychedelic Music is steadily pushing its way to the top of the pile. It may not be the shape of psych to come, but it’s definitely among the best shapes 2018 could ask for.



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Futuropaco

Somewhere in the future the spark of a great instrumental hip-hop record has been lit with the release of Futuropaco’s eponymous debut for the Danish label El Paraiso. The record, driven by Golden Void’s Justin Pinkerton, is doused in the drama of Italian Library Psych and Goblin soundtracks. It’s peppered through with the over-the-top, yet engrossing psychedelia that drove Jean Rollin’s best work and it could very easily have been disguised as a long-lost film score pushed out through Finders Keepers. It’s clear that Pinkerton has done his fair share of rifling through that particular catalog and has taken copious notes. Hell, they’re probably scribbled in the margins of a copy of David Hollander’s recently released Library retrospective, Unusual Sounds.

Worth noting, though, is Pinkerton’s background as a drummer as this adds a real streak of German Progressive punch to the record. While he’s steeped in the creepy atmospherics of the ‘70s Italians and twisted effects of French exploitation territory it’s that propulsive rhythm that keeps this record locked down and pushing harder than anything its emulating. The true classics of that era were tied to a hard edge that attracted beat fanatics, and Pinkerton’s vision of the sound skews this direction. His collector’s ear moves this well beyond just homage, though – with an alchemical attention on how to arrange psychedelic eras, Pinkerton, like his contemporaries Maston and Jon Brooks, has found a way to move the needle forward on Library psych. While, sadly, there’s no film digging into this particular well of instrumental goodness, it’s tempting to let the mind wander through Criterion-worthy scenarios drenched in technicolor and backed by Futuropaco’s psychedelic excess.



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Futuropaco – La Torre Cade”

Between Maston’s album last year and the double globed grandeur coming from Ghost Box of late (The Advisory Circle, Belbury Circle) it’s a good time for fans of the next wave of library music. Pack in that book from Anthology Recordings and we’ve got a full-on stock music uprising on our hands here. El Paraiso gets in on the fun with a debut offering from Futuropaco, the alias of Justin Pinkerton, longtime drummer for Golden Void. On “La Torre Cade” he handles far more than the sticks though, anchoring his song to a sense of rhythm rooted in the Germans but pushing through Italo horror that winks at Goblin and a psychedelic excess that feels right at home with Jean Rollin.

That excess is what makes this spark, not to mention stands Pinkerton out from some of his more synth-enamored contemporaries. A tumble of rhythms gives way to ferocious fuzz, wah-infected guitars and grandiose organ runs. The song teeters into the fray, picking up the mad glint of auteurs who were fleshing out their cinematic bloodbaths with equally ambitious accompaniment. With this only serving as a piece of the puzzle it’ll be interesting to see the kind of landscape that Pinkerton has etched out in the full album. Get this on your list.




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Landings – “Nod”

Oh man, Landing are back and like a good friend they’re still kicking up the same psych fallout that endeared them to me over all these years. The band turns up on the great El Paraiso Records, taking their Connecticut psych to the Danish hub and slotting in nicely alongside the label’s packed roster of home country haze wranglers (Mythic Sunship, Causa Sui). The track is pure dreamop reverberation weaponized by the low-slung rumble of guitar thunder. The motorik chug and woofer pushing volume slides this out of the wispy territory that can often trap dreampop like a pothole, instead balancing Adrienne Snow’s delicate vocals and the instrumental shred in perfect proportion. Produced by Justin Pizzoferrato (Dino Jr., Elder) the album looks to pack a pretty heavy punch when it lands in May.


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Causa Sui

El Paraiso Records is already on a tear this year with the epic, crushing release from Mythic Sunship, a slinking Kosmiche LP from Astral TV and now they cement it with an incendiary new record from flagship band Causa Sui. Splitting time between a tsunami of thick, frothy stoner rock vibes and a more space-rock approach that lifts them up out of the Sabbath ‘n Sleep ghetto of doom chasers, this record solidifies the Danish band’s worthiness on the stage of heavy psych flayers. It pushes their profile past the circuit of European psych bands to render them players on the world stage.

Though touted as a ‘mini LP,’ the record is anchored by two huge jams clocking in at 9+ minutes and they know how to use that length to their advantage. Hell, there’s really only one track here that dips below 7-min. Centerpiece “El Fuego” is a hammer-stung bit of metal-tipped prog that seethes with the appropriate amount of fire espoused by its title. “Seven Hills” follows shortly after with an almost cleaner burn, just plowing every living thing in its path with a spritz of lava and pumice before cooling off into a shimmering black glass sheen. The band has always proven their prowess in the live setting (see their recent Live in Copenhagen set for proof) but they’re proving that the studio is every bit their muse with this record. If the band had a foothold in the hearts of psych collectors before, they’ve just latched on permanently with a batch of tunes that never relent.



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Astral TV

Formed by Causa Sui synth player Rasmus Rasmussen alongside Keith Canisius, Astral TV picks up the Kosmiche baton from so many other tape trade analog wizards operating in the wake of Onehotrix and Emeralds. While the heyday of instrumental synth’s resurgence may be in flux, there’s still room at the table for those that are doing it with a deft hand on the knobs. Astral TV eschews the Goblin and Morricone tropes of the genre, going in for true German progressive float that comes straight out of the Göttsching school of meditative psychedelics.

The album has a tender arc, reigning in light-soaked burbles of sound that push the sensory deprivation vibes with euphoric results. On tracks like the sublime “Sun Flares” the duo rides the open consciousness fader to the top, rippling with a soft ecstasy that’s buoyed by arepgiated synths and glowing lines of honey-dipped guitar. They cross into some pastoral-psych / ’70s synth hybrids that skirt towards territory that Belbury Poly or The Advisory Circle might rightly feel comfortable in and it’s not a stretch to imagine Astral TV sharing a stage with either.

For minimal synth there’s always the danger to get sucked too hard into the New Age filter at the end of the pool, at least for me. There’s a huge audience for that and if you’re vibing on Vaporwave and loving it, more power to you. For my money though, the brand of Kosmiche that Astral TV has inhabited winds up with more meat on its bones and a longer lasting effect on the blissful comedown they’re searching for.

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Astral TV – “Sun Flares”

More great work out of the El Paraiso camp. This time the vibes skid less into the psych valley than into the Kosmiche ripple with a solo outing via Causa Sui synth and electronics-wiz Rasmus Rasmussen. The track is a prime example of ’70s German progressive synth float flecked with cosmic ambitions and rippling waves of lycergic bliss. Kosmiche has come storming back as a tag of notoriety in the last few years, but its also become a lazy signifier for letting synths drone on too long. Rasmussen can hardly be accused of aimless synth noodles. The track builds to a tower of crystalline beauty and glows like a beacon of new age glory. Many have tried and failed, but Astral TV nails the vibes that brought Germanic synth lords shuttling into view in the first place.




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Design Inspiration: Jakob Skøtt

For the third installment of the site’s Design Inspiration series, I’m focusing on Jakob Skøtt, who wears triple hats at the excellent Danish label, El Paraiso Records. Skøtt is co-owner, member of the band Causa Sui and chief designer of the label’s aesthetic. That aesthetic struck me immediately as being one of the most cohesive and attractive since Sacred Bones took up arms 10 years ago. Like SB, the label hearkens back to the idea of library sleeves or serialized jazz, tying their catalog together through crisp typography and the faded hues of Skøtt’s paintings. There are very few labels that I stumble upon and immediately want to buy wholesale on sleeve art alone but El Paraiso makes the case for buying blind and assuming a quality product. Below are Jakob’s picks for his five favorite album covers.

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Mythic Sunship

Admittedly it’s been a good year for psych, with plenty of releases edging their way up into album of the year territory. Now there’s another one to add to the list, Copenhagen’s Mythic Sunship brings crushing doom-psych vibes on their second album for El Paraiso. The album is built around two extended cuts pushing past the 13-minute mark and using every second to build an aura of creeping dread. They touch through the same scorched valleys as contemporaries Hills or The Cosmic Dead, but they seem to push further into a taut, propulsive landscape of slow simmer psychedelics. Mythic Sunship also takes a cue from prog in their ability to ‘world-build’ the songs into instrumental narratives that rise and fall with eddies of calm that lead into nighttime raids of incendiary guitar.

Lying in wait under one of El Paraiso’s trademark hand-painted sleeves courtesy of Jakob Skøtt, it’s an all around beautiful package from design to aural heft. Perhaps the best litmus of how heavy the band hits, though is who they’ve been playing with. A resume of opening slots for the likes of Träd Gräs och Stenar, Moon Duo and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard doesn’t speak lightly about their ability to level an audience. They harness the feedback fuzz, the metal stomp bass and tank tread thunder of drums and they’re doing it with a dark entropy that’s heads above many who step into this genre. Where most would skew too stark or too flashy, the band balances restraint and power in equal fistfuls. For my money, you’re gonna be hard pressed to find another album quite as devastating and nuanced this year.




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