Posts Tagged ‘El Paraiso’

Jonas Munk & Niklas Sørensen

Another sparkling gem out of the El Paraiso pocket here, this time from label co-head Jonas Munk along with Niklas Sørensen (Papir). Always Already Here locks into a Kosmiche wave and threads synth ripples through the swell. The pair head into the project with minimalism on the brain and they come out of it nicely unencumbered, building hypnotic patterns that play in the analog fizz. With a palette of synth and syncopated guitars, the duo submerge the listener into the light, dripping sounds from the surface and rendering any surrounding noise canceled with their startling calm.

There’s a deep dedication to the Göttsching school here, and the album brings to mind Inventions For Electric Guitar‘s lagurous beauty on more than one occasion, among some later nods towards Ashra’s more synth heavy trips. The album is a sonic cavern, a protective layer that spreads like gel around the brain as it unfolds. More than just hanging the listener into suspended animation, though, the pair strip away the weight of worry with each round of repetition and each opalescent splash of guitar. The record is a sonic scrub for the soul, allowing a disconnect from reality to recalibrate the brain and take a breath. If the world’s been getting to be too much and you’re in need of an aural vacation, then Munk and Sørensen have just the deep dive you’ve been looking for.




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Monarch

Pulling far from their shores, Danish psych outpost El Paraiso issues the second album from San Diego quintet Monarch. The record is a fuller offering than their debut, built around a tense nest of guitar interplay and storm-worn waves of organ. Owing much to the latter half of the ‘70s in the formation of their sound, the band eschews the type of loose, sandy riffs that have permeated a lot of their fellow West Coasters these days and they’re toughening this one up into the kind of sweat-shined, coke-veined records that blew out through ’75 and beyond, hardening the arteries of rock into the beast it would become in the ‘80s. Now, on the surface that sounds like a setup for the kind of rock n’ roll dress-up that’s perpetrated by Greta Van Fleet among other shoddy revivalists, but Monarch are careful to embody the spirit and not just the signifiers of this era.

They’re not working wholesale to scratch at one particular band’s niche, instead weaving the excesses of the era into a tumbling, tussling album that’s not afraid to tack on a sax coda if need be. They embody the feeling of artists holed up in the studio working to put their sunken eyes and shaking fingers to work on the riff that won’t let them sleep. The album has a ragged opulence to it, the kind of rock album that’s not necessarily approached anymore because it had been deemed a bit bloated in its day. The same kind that are now finding second wind with new generations scratching below the surface of the radio royalty and essential albums lists. The band centers the album on a trilogy of songs “Beyond The Blue Sky > Phenomena > Counterpart” that sees them building something bigger than mere single takes. This isn’t the same vein as the more amiable jam contingent building around the country, there’s progression, but also desperation and it’s an oddly welcome feeling to the newer progressive movements.

Beyond The Blue Sky’s title might hint at what the band is aiming for here, an album that leaves behind the sunny notions of California and instead finds itself slumped in the back of a towncar staring at the lights on the strip as they creep by, numb to charms of the salt air outside of the air-conditioned cab. This one might not be a constant companion, but its worth absorbing at least a few times. It’s thornier, slipperier and harder than it appears at first blush, a slowly unfolding story full of lies and leers.



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Causa Sui – Summer Sessions (Vols I,II,III)

It’s fair to say that Causa Sui is the corner stone of Danish label El Paraiso. While the label has offered up choice slabs from faves like Mythic Sunship, Landing, Monarch, and Futuropaco in the last few years, the impetus for the label grew out of a set of records that founders Jonas Munk and Jakob Skøtt put together with their band in 2008. The group had already released two records, including the now reissued (and deservedly so) Free Ride when they decided to embark on a series of releases that explored their various Venn diagrams of psychedelic interest. Heavily featuring saxophonist Rasmus Rasmussen, the set veers through desert psych — dredging up visions of Kyuss and Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions — to a free jazz bite and Kosmiche float. The originals would see light on Germany’s Elektrohasch Schallplatten, and the money from those records would help found El Paraiso as we know it today.

What’s striking, listening back after nearly a decade, is that the set of three records sounds as timeless as anything in the band’s catalog or on the label’s roster. While the sidelong crusher “Visions of Summer” trades in some liquid stringwork, a la Ripley Johnson, it more directly nods to Future Days’ crossbreed of Krautrock and Dead-indebted exploratory jams. Each of the LPs winds between face-melter psychedelia and more nuanced visions of Ash Ra Temple’s tangle, 70’s Miles mind expansion, and Blue Cheer’s bottom-end fuzz rumble. Live favorite “Rip Tide” tears at the psyche with molten guitars and Rasmussen’s relentless sax. The third LP is more languid, melting into pools of shimmer, but it’s still occasionally beset by the band’s flash paper burn of guitar.

There’s a very good chance that these sessions escaped your view when they were first offered up, so now’s probably a good time to go for the deep dive and let the band’s exploratory vision wash over you. They even have a nifty box that ties up all three in a great Skøtt-designed sleeve, looking neat and prim like all El Paraiso offerings. It’s recommended going deep on this set and finding some forgotten gems.



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Monarch – “Beyond The Blue Sky”

Adding yet another voice to the current wave of Cosmic Americana, the sophomore LP from SoCal psych five-piece Monarch wafts in on canyon breezes. “Beyond The Blue Sky” is faded in that Kodachrome sunburst hue, worn-in just the right amount but still with a bit of burn. The band makes the most of a six-minute tumbler – entwining twin guitars with the sun-in swagger of their ‘70s forebears and lighting up the solo like fellow West Coast CA toasters Howlin’ Rain. The track comes as a warning shot from their upcoming LP, also titled Beyond The Blue Sky, out later this summer on Denmark’s El Paraiso Records. If you missed out on their first LP, this one threatens to eclipse it nicely, so there’s time to catch up and crack in.


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Kanaan

On their debut, Norwegian trio Kanaan embrace a lineage of prog, psych, and metal that melts together into a powerful album that’s able to broadside the listener while remaining nimble on its feet. The band’s equally comfortable picking through the twists and turns of The Eleventh House as they are with bottom-heavy burners like Sabbath and The Flower Travellin’ Band. They use the album’s length to work their way towards the leaden boots of the latter over time, steadily shedding layers of intricacy in exchange for fuzz and fury. “A. Hausenbecken” finds the band bending their metal into sculptural shapes – still rusted and barbed, but beautifully striking from a distance. As Windborne wears on the beauty is somewhat subsumed by force and forged into a blunt instrument, though even that blunt instrument is decorated with a splash of painted and etched symbols that can’t help but haunt.

Like much of the El Paraiso Catalog, the band isn’t content to sit still stylistically. They echo Causa Sui’s absorption of prog’s high-minded, over-arching themes, Mythic Sunship’s blend of jazz and psych into a primal force, and even Futuropaco’s attention to rhythm. The latter they dip into on the motorik middle ground of “Harmonia,” which, as the title might suggest, plays into the Kosmiche touches of the referenced German lightspeed travelers. The track serves as a sweat respite in the middle of the album, a moment when the knots of the first two tracks are untied and a bracing point before the album’s second side tears into a growl of heaviness. Yet another worthwhile pickup from this Norwegian stable of cosmic shamans and prog denizens.



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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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