Album Review: Another Shape of Psychedelic Music by Mythic Sunship

Mythic Sunship are a band that I have been featuring here since their debut for Danish imprint El Paraiso, ‘Ouroboros’, made it into my best of list for 2016. Since then the band have brought out two further albums for the label which have, in my opinion, shown them to be developing incrementally over this time; each outing tighter and more intense than the previous one although not, in all honesty, straying too far away from the blueprint set out by the first one in this sequence.

Then comes ‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music’. The title, the cover (and even by the standards of El Paraiso this sleeve design is making a statement), the fact that it is a double album being released less than a year after the previous one… all these are screaming out to me that this might just be something special… a great leap forward… a confidence that perhaps is stronger than before. And do you know what… that is exactly what is happening here. As all the above suggests this release sees the band break out of the doom tunnel into the open air of psychedelic expression to produce a set that is just mind blowing. Let’s look a bit closer to find out why this might be the case.

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Photo by Trine Pihl Stanley

Album opener ‘Resolution’ sets out from the very first bar why this release is going to be different. The saxophone solo immediately places this apart from other Mythic Sunship offerings. This is more soul-melting than face-melting. In some ways it is a very understated start with the emphasis more on a jazz vibe than anything. Gradually, however, other elements begin to creep into the mix, components that you may expect from a Mythic Sunship album such as flourishes of space rock and, at around five minutes in, the first suggestion of a stoner/ doom guitar presence… very low in the mix to start with. Mostly though you are just really struck with how accomplished this melange of free expression is until the band somehow click into place at the halfway mark of this fourteen minute track and just take it off to the stars… the transition between the free jazz introversion and the more outward-looking space rock is subtle and effective… both elements otherworldly in their own way. Really, though, as the band start hammering out an almost punk riff under the sax towards the end you are just left with the feeling that this recording is going to be one hell of a ride. A stunning and full on end to a track that has taken you on an amazing journey from it’s low-key beginning.

The set rolls on straight into ‘Backyard Ritual’ which fires immediately into a psychedelic riff that hits the repeat button and is pretty much well entrenched in your brain after the first few seconds. From then on it feels like its open season for the band to hit you with anything at all, such is the way that the mind gets unlocked. Here you immediately notice that the drumming has moved from the jazz patterns of the opener in to a beat that is more reminiscent of afrobeat which immediately gives it a different feel. Around this the constant bass riff shares the underpinning and allows the guitars and sax to fly around with ever greater intensity hitting high after high. By six minutes in I feel that my head’s going to explode such is the sheer intensity of the playing and wonder how the band are going to keep this going for more than ten minutes more… So if you excuse me I’m just going to sit back for a while and take this all in…

…after around ten minutes the track drops out into a sort of bridge which provides a good moment for the listener to take stock before the inevitable build up back into the cauldron of sound again… that sax again adding a totally new dimension to the band’s sound… this would be amazing live I’m thinking…. totally lost in it all.

I really need a rest but no chance of that with ‘Last Exit’ which starts at a totally full-on pace with the whole band just flat out from the very first bar. The initial cacophony subsides and we’re left with a groove that is nothing short of mesmerising as you get pulled along with the beat. I’m completely absorbed by it straight away as Mythic Sunship hammer out cycle after cycle of danceable tunes which are ferocious in their execution without ever being harsh. Each track seems to blow me away just that bit more than the previous one such is the cumulative effect of ‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music’.

After all that ‘Way Ahead’ initially feels much more like it could appear on one of the bands previous albums, the sax is far more down in the mix and the guitar/ rhythm section combo are much more in evidence here. It is a reminder of Mythic Sunship’s roots, and in many ways provides us with a welcome touch stone of where they have come from. That is not to suggest that this is by any means run of the mill because it is as intense as anything on here, rather it is further evidence of the seismic shift that this set represents… a shift that is evident at about six minutes here when they just totally loose their shit and hit home…

Just when I was thinking how out there this all is, comes ‘Out There’. Yet another jam, and these are all improvised tracks, which just takes on a life of its own and heads out into the psychedelic universe gathering speed as it goes. This, I think, is what this release is all about. It’s the sound of a band that have fully found their mojo and can just hammer out these sonic slabs that are devoid of cliche and scream originality. On so many occasions you can imagine that the band are there in front of you spontaneously sculpting these aural highways down which your mind can travel where it will.

Which brings us to ‘Elevation’ the final track on the album, an edited version of which appears above… sorry just totally got lost in this. I closed my eyes and found myself picking up the doom-laden guitar which grabbed my mind and pulled it all over the place. Gradually though other elements take over and the sophistication found elsewhere on this album emerges and I was wrenched elsewhere into the sort of cacophony that happens periodically here… a controlled chaos where you don’t know quite where to put your head… a controlled chaos that sounds different every time… a controlled chaos that you know the band are going to come out of in some sort of glorious manner… a controlled chaos that you find all sort of ways through… just sit… stand… dance… whatever, but take time to listen.

This, for me, is a complete release… and listening to it is also a complete release. It has everything going for it in terms of design, packaging and, most of all, musicianship. It represents for me yet another interesting and accomplished attempt at moving forward what we understand psychedelic music to be by producing something that feels multi-dimensional and immersive. This feels like a band in the zone, who are developing before your very ears… I did not expect this, but am glad that it arrived.

‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music’ is released by El Paraiso Records on 5th October.



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