Regular readers will know how much I like the El Paraiso record label. The Danish imprint is one of the mainstays of my musical collection, and I am yet to dislike anything that they have put out. For me it is the complete package with amazing music and an in-house visual style which really is second to none.
To start 2020, the label have brought out two new albums which employ improvisation in their development, a live performance and a session, both of which go some way to increasing the public range of the musicians involved, giving new angles on their music.
Changing Shapes by Mythic Sunship
Mythic Sunship have brought out four studio albums to date on El Paraiso, the last of which, ‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music‘ (2018) is for me one of the stand out albums of the last few years. I really like how, as suggested in the title, it set out to redefine some assumptions about what a psychedelic rock album should be, especially through the way it integrated jazz elements into the mix (something of a theme for El Paraiso).
On the back of this that Mythic Sunship played three sets at the 2019 iteration of the Roadburn Festival, an event which I am sadly yet to attend. Those who were there raved about these sets.. of which this one is described as the band’s ‘most ferocious’.
This album does two things for me, one positive and one negative: the first, positive, tells me that through this live performance the band have been able to push on with what they delivered on their 2018 release in the way that it is a more raw and visceral version of something that already contained those elements.
The second, negative, is only so for me really… that is that Mythic Sunship are… with most other El Paraiso bands… right at the top of my ‘to see’ list, and I fear that with the ridiculous visa restrictions that are planned for the UK I am only likely to see them overseas… I may have to make that trip!
‘Changing Shapes’ is available from El Paraiso records here.
Odense Sessions by Kanaan
Kanaan are another member of the El Paraiso roster who brought out a great debut album in 2018 in the shape of ‘Windborne‘, and have also taken their sound forward here with these semi-improvised tracks with Causa Sui’s Jonas Munk on guitar and occasional keys.
When I originally reviewed their first release I was not only struck by the power of the band, but the way in which they channeled that power. This is something that is evident here from the outset as they collectively set off on what is a voyage of discovery for both players and listener… and you really do get that feel as ‘Seemingly Changeless Starts’ builds up slowly but decisively hitting it’s groove fully about eight minutes in… this is music that is about the journey and not the destination over four tracks and around 46 minutes…
After that ‘Of Raging Billows Breaking on the Ground’ is much more immediate… hitting the ground like an unholy athletic freak out before settling into a bucolic middle section that lulls the listener into a sense of calmness before breaking out into something much more raging again… not before some very funky bass kept the track going wonderfully.
‘Vacant Spaces’ sees a much more downbeat beginning with an altogether darker atmosphere descending onto the the scene. Here the listener gets the chance to look inward, that sort of self reflection that you get from walking slowly along the seashore… taking in the movement of the sea and the panoramic surroundings… there’s more than a hint of the blues here… blues which start to be expunged as the number builds towards a crescendo… more power, but still that control… marvellous!
The final track, ‘Urgent Excursions To The Tundrasphere’, starts in a pretty understated manner, but that just belies the nature of the longest track here which, once again, emphasises that these sessions were all about the here and now, rather than the where and when. This track just builds and builds, but in a sort of understated way… this isn’t raw seat of your pants stuff but a sumptuous ramping up of the ante in a way that feels wonderfully arranged without feeling anything but spontaneous… and then, after that, it does go freaked out batshit crazy as the band really let loose in a frenzy of playing that you feel could fragment at any minute… but of course never does… and then settles down into a lovely denouement leaving you feeling both invigorated and cosseted.
‘Odense Sessions’ is available from El Paraiso Records here.
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