We live in a time where change seems to be accelerating at a breakneck pace. Where forces that are seemingly beyond our control are massing at, for many of us, the wrong political and cultural borders. It is a time where darkness and fear seem to stalk the West in a way not seen in a couple of generations. This can feel overwhelming and destabilising if we think about it too much, but somehow not to think about it is to abnegate responsibility.
Yet…and yet…despite all this change there is a familiarity to our situation. For all their populist rhetoric few politicians are succeeding, or even seeking, to topple the established order. We remain, as ever, subject to the vicissitudes of a relatively small elite playing with us as did the Greek Gods, moving the pawns on the board for their own satisfaction and gain. To quote the phrase coined by French novelist and journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the nineteenth century ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ (‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’).
We remain pawns unless we can somehow change the game. This, it seems to me, is where The Myrrors are coming from with their new album; as they say in their description of it:
On ‘Hasta La Victoria’, The Myrrors win the fight by largely giving up, so to speak. By almost completely abandoning traditional electric guitar sounds, the band lives to fight another day and sounds all the stronger for it.
This, I would say, is no idle promise. I have always considered The Myrrors to be a great band, but this album is a real step up. By going away and rethinking their approach and their philosophy the band have somehow succeeded in still sounding like the The Myrrors while adding whole new layers of beauty and sophistication to produce something that is (I’m trying not to write ‘masterpiece’), or at least has the potential to be, a nailed on masterpiece (I couldn’t think of another word to describe how I feel about it). If you thought The Myrrors were special before, just wait until you hear this.
The album kicks off with ‘Organ Mantra’, and actually the opening bars sound like they could come from the previous ‘Entranced Earth’ album, then after about two minutes it opens up into the most wonderful soundscape. Still there is the sound of the desert, the sound of never ending vistas, the feeling of gazing out on a distorting heat haze. Here there is still the usual bass/ percussion rhythm session driving the track, but with that wonderful trademark Myrrors repeating drone…so far so Myrrors.
Things begin to go more left field with ‘Somos La Resistencia’ (‘We Are The Resistance’), latin grooves mixed with middle eastern sounds to create an intense cacophony that, although only three minutes long, seems to cement a new dawning…a new direction away from the sounds of the past and into new fields and perspectives.
So it is with ‘Tea House Music’ which is a moment of soul-melting beauty. The slow percussion underpinning a flute which just floats around the track before settling into the mix. Wonderfully meditative, this track seems designed to soothe and perhaps promote thought…to give you space to rest and contemplate new directions. Yet despite its apparent simplicity there seems to be a lot going on here. The influences are trans-national…this is music that is out of place and out of time…a sonic experience that lifts you out of where you are and takes you to a sort of neutral space (neutral but by no means valueless). Then, with about a minute to go, it steps up further as if sealing the ritual space…this also feels like very spiritual music…and bringing you gently back. Just magnificent.
Like ‘Somos La Resistencia’, ‘El Aleph’ is another relatively short track; but, like ‘Tea House Music’, it is another example of The Myrrors doing something new and different. Again meditative, this is an almost classical piece combining strings with the gentlest of percussion, perhaps even found sounds, behind it.
‘El Aleph’ segues into the final, title, track. At this point I’m feeling so relaxed, and yet also so strangely drained, that I can hardly type. Emerging from the strings comes a melody that is simply sublime. The mixture of organ-riff, percussion and the interjection of wind instruments which helps the track to retain that Myrrors flavour, is just spellbinding. At around half way through (the track is around fourteen minutes) the whole thing steps up, retaining the mesmeric patterns but intenstifying the experience and really just grabbing you even more. This is one of those tracks that could just continue, ‘repeat to infinity’ if you like.
This is as much an experience as an album, the sound of a band who have gone away and re-thought what they are about and where they need to go next. A band that have recognised the paucity of our current situation and sought to wreak their own change, to inspire us to think afresh, and to give us the space to do it. In some ways ‘Hasta La Victoria’ is a creative space in which The Myrrors have poured their own creativity, but probably their own feelings of inadequateness, fear, determination and fortitude as well. Listen to this album and you can certainly see that positive change is possible, change away from traditional structures…change towards something more holistic and inclusive, change that does not rest on tradition but seeks power from a synthesis of tradition. If this is the future…sign me up!
‘Hasta La Victoria’ is available for pre-order now on a myriad of digital and vinyl versions from Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and on cassette from Sky Lantern Records. It’s released towards the end of June 2017.
I cannot wait!