Causa Sui, Return to Sky: The Source at Dawn

causa sui return to sky

It may be in part because it’s so steadfastly instrumental that Danish four-piece Causa Sui‘s output hits with such an evocative effect on the listener. The material, as on Return to Sky, the band’s latest and upwards of ninth full-length, depending on what you count — minus jam sessions, live outings and collaborations, it’s number four — is wide open and vehement in its will for exploration, clearly plotted but sounding off the cuff and based heavily on the organically-presented chemistry between drummer Jakob Skøtt, guitarist Jonas Munk, keyboardist Rasmus Rasmussen and bassist Jess Kahr that has only developed further since the band’s last long-player, 2013’s stunning Euporie Tide, as their subsequent offerings, 2014’s Live at Freak Valley (review here) and Pewt’r Sessions 3 (review here), also showed.

That may be thanks partially to the chances taken on solo records by Skøtt and Munk over the last several years, but either way, they’re clearly a stronger band since they started to release through their El Paraiso Records imprint, through which Return to Sky now surfaces and which has become since its start circa 2011 a home for deeply creative and naturalist progressive psychedelia. As their own staple act, Causa Sui flourish across the collected five tracks/45 minutes, which arrive in packaging that has become El Paraiso‘s signature style as an unassuming LP the breadth of which isn’t to be understated, sandwiching between an extended (over 10 minutes) opener and closer some of Causa Sui‘s most resonant studio work to date, and some of the most spacious. Even down to Skøtt‘s snare drum on “The Source” or the preceding opener “Dust Meridian,” Return to Sky establishes a wide-open sphere, and yeah, maybe because there’s so much room it’s so satisfying to get lost in its progression.

Drums lead the way into “Dust Meridian” for guitar, bass and keys to follow, but it’s not long before Causa Sui are cascading and bounding along tight turns backed by what feel like extra percussive layers (I have the feeling they’re not) which shift in a measure’s time into a subdued break of jazzy drumming, sparse guitar and keys and a gradual build on a keyboard riff to a full tonal wash that pushes them past the seven-minute mark, crashing and spacing out along the way, building a tension that drops out before eight minutes in as they let it go in favor of a momentary shift back into the bounding, which in turn ends quiet en route to the more heavy rocking swing of “The Source.” Also the shortest track at 6:36, there are moments on “The Source” that sounds tailor-made for a guest appearance by Sergio Chotsourian, formerly of Los Natas. That doesn’t happen — again, instrumental throughout — but the vibe is right in the song’s early trades between a driving riff and sparser stops and pauses. They dedicate the last two minutes or so to a drone and melodic wash exploration that’s as pastoral as it is encompassing, the drums sitting out while bass provides a foundation for guitar effects and far-off keys.

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Listening to the album front to back, it’s the kind of change that’s so fluid it’s almost possible to miss and wonder a minute later where the hell you’ve just been, but it makes a suitably liquid transition into “Mondo Buzzo,” which closes out side A by playing jazzy heavy rock punches off quieter surroundings. Causa Sui weave their way through a soft early going and into heavier push so smoothly, Munk layering in a lead as they head toward the midsection, that it’s hard to follow their going, but “Mondo Buzzo” is striking as much for the weight behind its thrust as for its lush ambience, though it’s with the latter that the four-piece choose to close out side A, turning quickly back to softer jamming of increasing melodic gorgeousness as they make their way through the final few minutes, effects, guitar and keys given a continued sense of structure by the drums, but playing out a bright sunshine that’s more energy than matter, in motion though it is.

While the guitar starts the song, it’s Kahr who makes the most resonant impression in the beginning moments of “Dawn Passage” at the start of side B, a serene bounce emerging from beneath all the airiness overtop in the first minute, the keys adding to the atmosphere in swelling melodies before they drop out and the band continues on the course of a linear build, which is over by the time they hit four of the track’s total eight minutes but leads to more progressive interplay of guitar, bass and keys, percussion fleshing out the jam as they subtly make their way toward another crescendo, which they finish with about a minute to spare for closing out with vastness and soundscaping. It would be difficult for the closing title-track to push out further than Causa Sui have already gone, but the 11-minute finale is ultimately a defining moment for the record that I’m sure by no coincidence bears its name, less improvised sounding in parts, but still untamed and natural, it teases a takeoff at around a minute in and recedes back into watery guitar for a moment before the drums drop out and the guitar sets the build in motion that will consume the next minute-plus in increasingly intense push — the apex of the album.

The payoff, for everything, lasts until about four and a half minutes, and then airy, quiet, almost minimalist guitar chords ring out peacefully but actively over a still-very-much-in-motion bassline (that might be another layer of guitar) to progressive affect, tension held in the latter that will come to the fore over the next six minutes or so as the keys reenter and another build is underway, this time more freaked out and psychedelic. Drums return after a time and Causa Sui carefully, patiently, bring the track forward toward its last noisy peak, getting over to the other side and, of course, moving easily through to finish quiet with volume swells that sound — no doubt purposefully — like waves. Aside from how interactive a listen it is — which is to say, how much of oneself one can put into the listening experience — what’s most striking about Return to Sky is how short it feels. Granted, it is. Euporie Tide topped out at 64 minutes, and Return to Sky is 45; prime for a single-LP release. Whether it was the band’s intent to balance out the fervent stylistic expansion this album represents by taking less actual time, I don’t know, but to think of something so outwardly lush as also being in some way “stripped down” only adds to the depth of the experience, which is welcome, though Causa Sui were hardly lacking anyhow. Their creative pursuit is multifaceted and relentless, and Return to Sky is a well-placed landmark on the road they’re traveling.

Causa Sui, “The Source” official video

Causa Sui on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records

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One Response to “Causa Sui, Return to Sky: The Source at Dawn”

  1. […] reading: The Obelisk Review: Causa Sui, Return to Sky (Courtesy of JJ Koczan / The […]

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