Posts Tagged ‘El Paraiso’

Kanaan

Good to see the fertile jam genes of Europe also embracing in the more improvisational side of psych, with Oslo’s Kanaan following up their 2018 debut with a live in the studio take that pushes them into freeform territory. With the label’s Jonas Munk behind the boards, the LP shows a more experimental side of the band. Kanaan holed up in Munk’s studio Odense (hence the title), and Munk joined in on guitar to take these four tracks beyond where the band had pushed prior. As with their debut Windborne, there’s a sense of unease and tension built into the bones of Kanaan’s sound, giving these tracks a sense of freedom but also a forboding wind at their backs. Opener “Seemingly Changeless Stars” builds slow and steady on riffs that threaten to break and cascading ripples of guitar that come straight from the Ripley Johnson school of liquid licks. The floodwaters break by the end and the band brings a wave of relief crashing down on listeners.

The addition of a second guitar suits the band, and Munk seats himself well into their sound, carving out delicate textures through the band’s monolithic rock structures. Over four tracks, the band cements their status as ones to watch on the psychedelic spectrum. The band’s debut was solid, but this moves them beyond echoing their influences and into etching a few new pages in the ledger of lysergic travelers. They strip away some of the tension by the time the second side rolls around and we’re treated to a mercurial melt on “Vacant Spaces,” slowly creeping to a growling close. The band doesn’t let the eleven-minute mark define the limits of their mind expansion, though. They tip into the fourteen + closer that also balances nimble fretwork and tempered chaos, exploding through the second half with a clear-cut fury. If you missed out on Windbourne pick up the story here, this feels like the moment that Kanaan begin.


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Mythic Sunship

After a year of letting it ferment, Mythic Sunship’s last album Another Shape of Psychedelic Music is still reorganizing the molecules in my body. The band had long been working to ferret out the thunder and squall from heavy psychedelics, but their addition of saxophonist Søren Skov pushed them into a zone that swiped at free jazz and rolled the burnt sensibilities of the genres together with a renewed vigor. The songs begged to be played live, as the feeling that the band could push these songs beyond the bounds of the studio seemed readily apparent. Now, that’s just what the band along with El Paraiso have done. Mythic Sunship locked down three nights at Roadburn’s yearly gathering of psychedelic shred in Tilburg and the most adventurous night was pressed down to LP.

The live performance doesn’t shy away from the expectations put forth by the studio LP. They work through ferocious and fuming renditions of “Way Ahead” and “Elevation,” but rather than simply expand on the collaborations they’d already done with Skov, they pushed even further. They spend the rest of the set working through new cuts that scrape the cosmos and scar them with a phalanx of sax singe and the titanic rumble of the band’s rhythm section. Too often Mythic Sunship seems to be left out of conversations Stateside that include both psych and free jazz, and this set proves that they should not only be included but at the forefront.



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Mythic Sunship – “Awakening”

Two years back Mythic Sunship released an album called Another Shape of Psychedelic Music, a bold title that the record lived up to easily. The band had long been carving out a niche in exploratory space-psych, but they added saxophonist Søren Skov to the mix and the record dived deep into the vibrations of free jazz and added them to the top of their bottled fury. As the band embarked on Roadburn the following year they uncorked the bottle fully, bringing Skov along for three nights of psychedelic singe. The set included a couple of tracks from their previous album but also adds three more new collaborations, mutating into a chemical burn of blast-force sonics that need to be heard to be understood. Thankfully all three nights were captured, the best of which is being presented by El Paraiso to commemorate the band’s mercurial manifestation right there on the stages of Tilburg.

The band sent over the opening cut to Changing Shapes, one of the new debuts of the night called “Awakening.” The track creeps out of the caverns slow and sinister before exploding into a ball of gaseous flame. A necessary listen for the start of 2020. The new LP is out January 17th and is, naturally, quite recommended.

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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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