The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jakob Skøtt of Causa Sui & El Paraiso Records

Posted in Questionnaire on June 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jakob Skøtt of Causa Sui & El Paraiso Records

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

Ever since I was a child, I would always wonder how things worked. “Hmm, what makes the sound come out of the speaker?” That sort of juvenile wonder. And that’s still what drives me: “How do you play the drums to get that sound?,” “How do you design an OBI-strip for a record cover?” Whatever I’m doing, I’m driven by that sense of empirical wonderment — trying to get to the bottom of it, sort of emptying the pool one spoonful at a time, haha.

Describe your first musical memory.

The “Dueling Banjos” theme from the movie Deliverance. My brother and I used to dance around while that played, going faster and faster. When I saw the movie years later, I realized just how twisted it was. “Squeal like a pig.” But I remember the inbred banjo boy was on the cover as well, so that’s probably why it really stuck with me from an early age.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Motorpsycho live in 1997 — I had bought their CD Trust Us on the recommendation of the guy in the record shop the same day. There were like eight or 10 people in the audience, and the friend from high school I came there with left when he met a girl at the bar before the show. But I stayed and they just slayed it. I love the way they used to mix the vibes of indie bands like Pavement with stoner rock and psychedelic stuff — something very few bands do today (not even Motorpsycho). So yeah, if you know a band that mixes Pavement and Sonic Youth with heavy riffs (may as well throw in some Popol Vuh?), send me a note!

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Many of my beliefs are constantly tested, so I try to spend more effort remodeling my beliefs, than hanging onto them. But I still feel like working with music and being able to make it and put it out is a gift, so my main assumption is that I’m not a musician and not gonna release any more music ever — since, you know, family, full-time job, bills, etc. I often go for months and months and not play a single note. So every time I’m able to work on music it’s in spite of that, so my own challenging my beliefs, come from hard work of actually making or putting out music.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hmm, I think that’s a dual-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great to have a driving force and sense of wonderment. But on the other hand, the quest for constant rejuvenation could keep you from refining a few good ideas to become even better. I think a lot of bands end up on this course: They start out really hungry and humble, and want to pour every ounce of their creative energy into making the best thing they can in the best way possible. Perfect. But then they’ve done a few albums, have a fan base, and they want to take it to the next level.

Well that’s another quest all together. Spending weeks in the studio, more layers, mixing with more expensive producers, pondering over artwork, shopping for labels — whatever way you can come up with to add unnecessary layers of complexities to your work – you’re pushing for something that isn’t happening organically. So it becomes an artistic struggle, rather than a natural progression. And I think this fixation on “progression” is what leads us there — most people are probably afraid to stagnate. But what I’ve found is that even trying to do what I did yesterday, I’ll do it differently today — it feels the same, but the results are different. And that’s when artistic progression feels meaningful — going along with the natural current in whatever stream you’re in. It’s not something you should have to actively pursue.

How do you define success?

I find that personal happiness has more and more to do with it, rather than any sort of commercial success. Some of the releases I’m most proud of hasn’t sold more than 300 or 500 copies. But it’s a success that it came into the world. So having that personal freedom to control what I do feels like success to me. Again, it’s a privilege to be able to make music. I’m grateful whenever it’s a part of my life.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

When you get kids and they get sick or hurt, that sucks. Also I wish I hadn’t seen the face of depression in people I know.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’d really like to be involved with making a book. Preferably writing it at some point, but if that doesn’t pan out, then just doing the typography and cover. Or maybe doing a graphic book — perhaps when we hit 100 releases on El Paraiso?! We had the 10 year anniversary in January, but we didn’t do anything. So yeah, in just 35 releases we’ll at epr100. Shit! I should start putting it together now! JJ, you can write the prologue [I’d be honored. — ed.]!

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

I think art in the broadest sense – consuming, creating or curating – makes your mind more elastic! It makes your brain work in different ways.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Looking forward to seeing Dune. Also finishing Liu Cixin’s Three-body Problem an epic sci-fi trilogy starting in the 1960s ending at the end of time (!!!) – sort of a Chinese modern day version of Asimov’s Foundation. I’m also looking forward to going skateboarding with my son again, since I fell and stubbed my toe and it’s all blue. And I have some Umberto Lenzi eurocrime Blu Rays in the mail that should arrive any day now – love those movies! Gonna watch them with a tasty hazy double IPA. Cheers everyone!

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Causa Sui, Szabodelico

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

causa sui Szabodelico

[Click play above to stream Causa Sui’s Szabodelico in full. Album is out Nov. 13 on El Paraiso Records and can be ordered here.]

Recorded over a period of months between 2019 and early 2020, Szabodelico — named for its own centerpiece track in homage to Hungarian jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó, see also second cut “Gabor’s Path” — revels a bit in its sense of disconnection, in the flourish each of its total 13 pieces brings on its own. And yet, with the long-established chemistry of Danish instrumentalists Causa Sui behind it, and a stated focus on capturing early takes, minimal overdubs, recording themselves, etc., there is an overarching flow and immersion taking place over the 2LP’s 63 minutes that is unmistakable. Causa Sui are nothing less than a treasure of the European psychedelic underground. Their ongoing progression and exploratory impulses have in the past 15 years made them essential and influential listening, and as they’ve moved over the last half-decade toward bringing together tonal-presence-minded heavy psych and various manifestations of jazz, the “voice” they’ve found — such as it is with no vocals — has become their own in a way that is vibrant and encompassing.

Last heard from with 2017’s Vibraciones Doradas (review here) and the Live in Copenhagen (review here) live album issued earlier that year, they bring a sense of grace and spontaneity to Szabodelico that transcends the stylistic shifts between ethereal free-jazz warmup in the opener “Echoes of Light,” spaghetti westernism on “Under the Spell” and organ/guitar call-and-response dueling on “Sole Elettrico.” There are a couple heavier-ish moments of distorted guitar and so on brought forth by guitarist Jonas Munk, drummer Jakob Skøtt, keyboardist Rasmus Rasmussen and bassist Jess Kahr, to be sure, but Szabodelico is more about mellow freedom. About finding out where you’re going when you get there. About playfulness and engaging with the creative process as it’s happening. It has become a pandemic-era cliché to note the additional poignancy of such things, so I’ll say instead that Causa Sui are simply unmatched when it comes to the melding of progressive spirit and instrumental conversation, and the patience of craft they display in these works is no less theirs than anything jammed out across the multi-part Summer Sessions series (review herediscussed here), their live outings, or their other studio work.

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As one might expect, the album is structured to highlight the vinyl presentation. Each of the two component platters begins with a kind of introductory short work in the aforementioned “Echoes of Light” (2:33) and its dreamy, key-inflected side C counterpart “Honeydew” (2:58), which gives way with an especially smooth transition into “Lucien’s Beat,” suitably more percussive but still otherworldly. On the other end of these, rounding out sides B and D, are “Szabodelico” itself at 7:14 and the 9:52 album finale “Merging Waters.” The former builds up to become about as full-on rock as Causa Sui get throughout, so it’s only fitting that its companion should be as deeply entrenched in a liquid psychedelia as possible; the quiet lake as opposed to a flowing river, if we’re talking about water.

causa sui (Photo by Danny Kotter)

With the range Causa Sui demonstrate in cuts like the winding “Vibratone,” with its folk-boogie emergence marked out by waves of synth, or the quick cinematic krautrock excursion that is “Premonitions,” Szabodelico can be seen as unpredictable, and it is. On some level, it’s a collection of jams and quick installments gathered from multiple sessions and compiled together as a release. It’s inherent to the form that there would be disparity in purpose and delivery. The genius — and yes, I mean that — of the album is that it doesn’t hide from that so much as make it the point of the thing in the first place, so that each turn Causa Sui make becomes not a hardship for the listener, but a joy to relish along with the band. And on the most basic level of listening, when one puts on Szabodelico, it is anything but a challenge to make the leap from one song to the next. Each side and each movement occurs with such a sure and gentle guiding hand that to not follow where one is being lead is to fail as an audience. The answer is to go with it. Go with it and know it’s all going to work out because, yes, it absolutely does.

The trust is well earned on the part of Causa Sui, and will only be more so going forward because of the work they do on Szabodelico. It is a standout among their catalog of now-six full-lengths, various sessions-type offerings and sundry live albums, and is intended to be precisely that, right unto the ultra-chill percussion drips on “Rosso Di Sera Bel Tempo Si Spera” and the penultimate sunshine rocker “La Jolla” echoes and expands on some of the meditations in “Under the Spell,” bringing singular warmth ahead of the cool dive in “Merging Waters.” Wherever Causa Sui go in a given track, they go with purpose, even if that purpose is simply the going itself, and while some who’ve basked in their desert-style fuzz progressions might be surprised by what Szabodelico is doing, the basic fact of the matter is it’s not a high hurdle to jump.

That is to say, Causa Sui make it easy for the listener to expand their palette (and consciousness), to keep an open mind, because the material itself has such a correspondingly open approach. Maybe this is the band proving they can go anywhere. Maybe this is the shape of psych-jazz to come. Maybe it’s a one-off. You never really know with Causa Sui what direction their output might next take, and when the result of that is material like they bring to Szabodelico, which retains its vitality even at its most subdued and is lush without sacrificing the organic nature of its performance to craft a wash of effects, it is their righteousness reaffirmed. This record feels like a gift built by masters of the form, and it is precisely that. Whatever it may lead to, if anything, is for future hindsight to dictate. As of now, it is a welcoming for anyone ready to be welcomed.

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Album Review: Ellis/Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions

Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Ellis Munk Ensemble San Diego Sessions

And a significant ensemble it is. Traveling from his native Denmark to San Diego, California, guitarist Jonas Munk of heavy psych innovators Causa Sui was set to meet up in Sept. 2019 with Brian Ellis (Astra, Psicomagia, Birth, etc.) whose solo work has been issued through Causa Sui‘s label, El Paraiso Records. By the account in the liner notes for the release, it wasn’t the first time Munk made the trip, but it would seem to have been an occasion nonetheless, as Munk and Ellis, based in Escondido, were to spearhead what has been tagged as the Ellis/Munk Ensemble featuring players from bands like Radio Mosow, Sacri Monti, Psicomagia, Joy and others. It’s a pretty extensive roster. To wit:

Brian Ellis (keys) – Astra, Silver Sunshine, Brian Ellis Group, Psicomagia, Birth, etc.
Jonas Munk (guitar) – Causa Sui, various solo-projects and collaborations

Plus:
Dominic Denholm (bass) – Monarch
Thomas DiBenedetto (drums/guitar) – Sacri Monti, Monarch, ex-Joy
Dylan Donovan (guitar) – Sacri Monti, Pharlee
Paul Marrone (drums) – Astra, Cosmic Wheels, Radio Moscow, Psicomagia, Birth, Brian Ellis Group
Trevor Mast (bass) – Birth, ex-Joy, Psicomagia, Brian Ellis Group
Anthony Meier (bass/keys) – Sacri Monti, Radio Moscow
Conor Riley (keys) – Astra, Silver Sunshine, Birth
Andrew Velasco (percussion) – Love, the City & Space
Andrew Ware (drums) – Monarch
Evan Wenskay (organ) – Sacri Monti
Kyre Wilcox (bass) – Truth on Earth

The most striking thing about this lineup — aside from the fact that among the 12 participants, there are no women — is the sheer amount of overlap. Members of Sacri Monti playing in Monarch and Joy, members of Astra resurfacing in Birth, and so on. Like any scene worthy of the designation, San Diego is plenty incestuous, but in no small part that’s essential to what makes it the heavy psych haven it’s become. The entire situation is fluid, so how could the music be anything else?

With Munk‘s arrival in town as impetus for the get-together, San Diego Sessions arrives (via El Paraiso) as seven tracks/48 minutes carved out from these several evenings’ worth of jams and fits with Munk and Ellis‘ apparently shared vision of the stylistic interaction between psychedelia and jazz. Indeed, the stated comparison is to Miles Davis‘ Bitches Brew, and track titles like “Pauly’s Pentacles,” “Munk’s Dream” — as opposed to “Monk’s Dream,” i.e. Thelonius Monk — and “Larry’s Jungle Juice” honor that tradition as well, as does the immediate thrust and twist of 10-plus-minute opener “The Wedge,” which features eight players, three of whom are on keys, and sets a tone with scorching runs of lead guitar atop intricate rhythmic turns.

ellis munk ensemble personnel

One thing: they picked their drummers right. In MarroneDiBenedetto and Ware, the Ellis/Munk Ensemble — whoever else happens to be around at any given moment — have some of the best San Diego’s underground has to offer on board when it comes to drums, Mario Rubalcaba of Earthless notwithstanding. With this foundation, guitarists like Munk — who appears on every track except the penultimate madcap freakout “Larry’s Jungle Juice”; Ellis likewise sits out the brief but spacious “Munk’s Dream” — Donovan and DiBenedetto are able to freely explore various reaches and textures of sound, and so the variety of San Diego Sessions stems as much from its sonic moods as from its personnel.

Still, much of the tone — and much of the album, frankly — happens at the outset with “The Wedge” and “Pauly’s Pentacles.” As the latter tops 11 minutes, the two songs comprise 22 of the total 48-minute stretch here, so not an insignificant portion, and more important, it’s in them that the spirit of San Diego Sessions is established in looking toward the aforementioned tradition of the jazz session. “The Wedge” locks in a solid groove early before spinning heads with guitar and keys alike, and “Pauly’s Pentacles” turns more mellow lead vibes into a vibrant apex ahead of dipping into a bit of cosmic funk, the drifting end of which is a suitable transition into the ethereal “Munk’s Dream” — the shortest inclusion at just 2:24 but an atmospheric highlight nonetheless.

By the time, then, that they dip into album-centerpiece “Electric Saloon,” which runs just under nine minutes long, the expectation is wide open for what might actually take place within that span of time but set in the sphere of heavy psychedelic improv. “Bucket Drips,” which follows, is another more meditative vibe, so “Electric Saloon” is given a mindful showcase, led into and out of as it is. It’s a two-sided LP and certainly there’s a flow across the span as one jam ends or fades out and the next arrives, but one might think of San Diego Sessions as taking place in three distinct movements: the opening two, the middle three, and the finishing two. Elements of personality drift in and out along the way — much like the people — but the way in which the pieces complement each other, right up to how the finishing chase of “Larry’s Jungle Juice” gives way to the smoother procession of “Stone Steps” to close out with a relative wash of keys, is such that each chapter has something of its own to offer the listener.

There is further nuance to how the pieces are arranged and how they bleed from one to the next that one might point out, but what that goes to underscore is the fact that San Diego Sessions has been carved out from the raw material that emerged over those nights. It’s got its warts-and-all feel intact, but one assumes there was more recorded than appears in the completed product. Maybe that means a San Diego Sessions 2 is in the offing, or maybe these were all the highlights; I don’t know. But Ellis/Munk Ensemble captures a special stretch of time when talented players — many of whom already had established chemistry from years of collaboration in various bands — joined together to welcome a friend into the fold.

The instrumental and improvisational nature of the record might mean that not every listener is up for making the trip, but what comes through most of all in the tracks is the feeling of celebration, of challenging each other, of playing with sound and technique like the implements of magic they are, and of enjoying all of it. That atmosphere is infectious.

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Monarch Post “Face to Face” Video; Release Enough’s Enough: Live at Steel Mill

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

monarch

This February, San Diego’s Monarch announced their first-ever European tour dates. The San Diego-based band would’ve just been the latest export from their hometown’s enviable — and envied — heavy psychedelic underground scene, and they would’ve headed abroad supporting their 2019 offering, Beyond the Blue Sky (review here), which of course was their second album through Denmark’s El Paraiso Records behind 2017’s Two Isles (review here). As part of that run, they would have taken part in Tube Cult Festival in Italy, Desertfest in London, and I know I was looking forward to seeing them at Esbjerg Fuzztival in Denmark, where they’d have shared the stage with their label heads in Causa Sui and others.

Those plans, naturally, went the way of everyone’s plans for anything in the first half of 2020, and though Monarch are currently listed as taking part in Finland’s Sonic Rites Festival on Oct. 30-31 and may have more tour dates surfacing around that, monarch enoughs enough live at steel millit was still one of the multitudes of the bummers of this past Spring to see their tour come apart. So. It. Goes.

As civil unrest across the United States has not-inappropriately taken precedent over the that pesky pandemic (that just because it’s not the top story anymore has stubbornly not stopped killing people), Monarch have chosen to take part in raising funds for Black Lives Matter by posting the new four-song live performance titled simply Enough’s Enough: Live at Steel Mill recorded in San Diego at Steel Mill Coffee, which is owned by pro skaters Riley Hawk and Shea CooperHawk also took part in filming the new video for “Face to Face” that you can see below. The song is more recent even than Beyond the Blue Sky, so Enough’s Enough is a chance to get a sneak peak at the next stage in Monarch‘s evolution, but to hear live versions of “Assent” from Two Isles and “Pangea” and “Felo De Se” from the second record, supporting a good cause with good prog. You can’t really go wrong there.

I don’t know Monarch‘s plans for their next record, if anyone’s daring to plan for anything at this point, but “Face to Face” is a most welcome eight minutes of prog-psych escapism, further distinguishing Monarch‘s personality as a band among the classic minded vibemakers from the City in Motion.

Video and stream both follow below. 100 percent of the $20 for the live album download goes to Black Lives Matter.

Enjoy:

Monarch, “Face to Face” official video

Been a while since we’ve made any noise here but today we break our silence! Announcing the release of a new live recording “ Enough’s Enough “ Live Steel Mill Coffee paired alongside a video for our newest song “ Face to Face”….

This release is available on our bandcamp – https://monarch4.bandcamp.com/album/enoughs-enough-live-at-steel-mill paired with a limited run of t-shirts w/art done by @hartchaseman.

100% of proceeds from the record & shirts will be donated to Black Lives Matter in the fight against racial injustice and police brutality ! Huge shout out to @rileyhawk @justsomedude @paconertz for the camera work, enjoy!

Filmed by : Jacob Nunez, Riley Hawk, Lannie Rhoades
Edited by : Jacob Nunez
Mixed by : Dominic Denholm
Mastered by : Mike Tholen

Monarch is:
Dominic Denholm – Guitar/Vocals
Thomas Dibenedetto – Guitar
James Upton – Guitar
Matt Weiss – Bass
Andrew Ware – Drums

Monarch, Enough’s Enough: Live at Steel Mill (2020)

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Kanaan, Odense Sessions: Consecutive Seconds

Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

kanaan odense sessions

On the Danish island of Funen, westward across the Storebæltsbroen from (old) Zealand and Amager, where Copenhagen is located, is the city of Odense. The city is home to, among other things, the studio of Jonas Munk, who is best known for his guitar and production work as a part of Danish psych-desert-jazz pastoralists Causa Sui, as well as his solo work and efforts as a part behind the scenes of El Paraiso Records. The label released the debut album from Oslo, Norway’s Kanaan, Windborne, in 2018, and for the follow-up, Munk not only helmed the recording in Odense, but sat in on guitar on each of the LP’s four tracks, adding to the semi-improvised fluidity of guitarist Ask Vatn Strøm, bassist Eskild Myrvoll and drummer Ingvald André Vassbø and further fleshing out the 46-minute instrumentalist set that speaks less immediately to the nuance and bop of jazz than to the atmospheric reach of psychedelia, and while particularly the 14-minute capper “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere” has underlying motion in its steady punctuation of snare and the entire album prior wants little for movement, the overarching vibe of Odense Sessions is much more about casting a laid back, serene immersion for the listener.

I’m not sure it’s fair to call Odense Sessions hypnotic, since Kanaan and Munk aren’t exactly working toward simply inducing a trance either on their audience or entirely on themselves, but the nature of its flow and the ease-into-groove it hones ahead of its last freakout is such that, should one want to put it on and simply check out mentally for three quarters of an hour, it’s certainly possible to do so. At the same time, the longform liquefaction of “Seemingly Changeless Stars” (11:51) at the outset brings a gorgeous sense of drift to the album’s beginning that is nothing if not worth conscious attention. The trio-plus-one build into a procession that very much works in that vein, with one guitar following the bass and drums while the other peppers with ambience and weaves around the central rhythm being crafted. By the time they’re five minutes in, Vassbø‘s drums have grown louder and the guitars more prevalent — bass is steady, an anchor, present, not staid; could be louder in the mix but I almost always say that about everything — and the smoothness of the build is more apparent, even as it continues to mount.

Payoff arrives circa 10 minutes in with the inclusion of what sounds like Mellotron but might just be synth, but it’s important to note that the peaceful feel with which the song started remains, even as the wash is at its most fervent in “Seemingly Changeless Stars” before it drops back to standalone guitar and the drums begin the 8:11 “Of Raging Billows Breaking on the Ground” (there’s that bass). The later moments of Windborne dug into riffier fare, so it’s not out of character for Odense Sessions to do so either on its only track under 11 and a half minutes long, but the side A closer soon enough transitions into its own outward exploratory motion and the question becomes whether or not Kanaan are going to shift back to that central riff they introduced earlier. They don’t make the listener wait to find out, as at about five and a half minutes in, the figure returns as the bed beneath an overarching drift of lead guitar — one presumes that’s Munk while Strøm is holding down the rhythm, but it could just as easily be the opposite — and takes hold again of the proceedings in a triumphant return during the final minute in a skillfully executed blend of improvisation and structure. It is pulled off righteously and ends the first half of Odense Sessions on a high note.

kanaan (Photo by Jenny Berger Myhre)

Side B is the longer of the two on the LP, but that seems unlikely to cause complaints as “Vacant Spaces” (11:39) and the already-noted “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere” begin to unfold, the former starting off in mirror fashion to “Seemingly Changeless Stars” with a quiet stretch of interweaving guitar lines and a could-listen-to-it-all-day peacefulness of mood that is genuinely affecting. Myrvoll and Vassbø pull together a subdued swing behind the two guitars that is not to be understated for how effective it is in carrying the proceedings forward and engaging the listener in the spirit of the song. Four minutes pass like it’s nothing, then five, and as they move toward six, the linear build becomes more apparent, and though it’s a bittersweet to let go of the stillness and the meditative moment at the beginning of “Vacant Spaces,” the track moves through a slowly rolling motion that is still kind of an understated crescendo, worthy of its beginning and not at all overdone, but definitely a journey from one end to the other. One might say the same of the closer, or the album as a whole, and not be at all incorrect.

It would seem to be the aforementioned snare that earns the word “urgent” in the title of “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere,” while the “excursion” in question is obviously the all-go-all-gone sensibility of the improvisational undertaking and the “Tundrasphere” perhaps an acknowledgement of Kanaan‘s northern origins and the nonetheless spaced-out spirit they case. A central difference between Odense Sessions and Windborne is in the simple rawness of the tones on the earlier release. The guitar, even when not casting thicker riffing, could have a bite to it that Odense Sessions trades out in favor of the warmth that, even as the finale shifts to its most active riffing and soloing, is maintained. Loud or quiet, it’s not a challenge to hear the fruit borne of the collaboration between Vassbø, Strøm, Myrvoll and Munk, and as “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere” hits its peak with its howls of synth and guitar and tom fills, it’s worth noting that Kanaan once more bring it back to ground to close out not on a raucous note, but a peaceful one, spending the last three minutes of the song in a sunshiny soundscape that, while still perhaps reeling from the tension prior, is purposefully removed from it.

That ending is fairly earned and wholly satisfying, and one only hopes that whatever Kanaan do next — whether it’s in collaboration with Munk, anyone else, or on their own — they take the experience of Odense Sessions and learn from it as they move forward. Given the inclusion of a fourth personage here, it’s hard to relate the LP directly to Windborne in terms of an overall progression of the band, but even the fact of their willingness to explore beyond their own bounds speaks to their open creative spirit, and that can only continue to serve them well. It definitely does in these tracks.

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Monarch Announce First-Ever European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

monarch

San Diego classic heavy rock pastoralists Monarch were already announced as taking part in Desertfest London and Esbjerg Fuzztival, so a tour was suspected, but it’s nice to have confirmation that, indeed, that’s the plan. The five-piece will go abroad for the first time while supporting their second album, Beyond the Blue Sky (review here), which came out last August on El Paraiso Records. The final date of the run is the aforementioned Esbjerg Fuzztival in Denmark, where they’ll join fellow San Diegans Sacri Monti as well as El Paraiso label heads Causa Sui on the bill, rounding out the tour on what would seem to be a planned high note. It’s a month-long stretch, so as an initial incursion abroad it’s not unambitious, but I have a hard time imagining they won’t find welcome in all corners.

Tour is presented by Ya Ya Yeah Booking and El Paraiso. Here’s the band’s announcement:

MONARCH TOUR

Very excited to announce our maiden voyage across the pond this upcoming spring! More dates TBA. Thanks to Ya Ya Yeah and El Paraiso Records for helping us make this happen! See you soon Europe…

09 APR FR Le Havre Mc Daid’s
10 APR FR Clermont-Ferrand Raymond Bar
11 APR BE Liege Insert Name Festival #6
12 APR DE Kusel Willkommen im Dschungel
14 APR DE Aachen The Wild Rover Irish Pub
15 APR PL Poznan Klub u Bazyla
16 APR PL Gdansk GAK Plama
17 APR DE Berlin Zukunft am Ostkreuz HEADZ UP
18 APR PL Cracow Warsztat
19 APR PL Warsaw Potok : Drugi Dom Ludzi Rocka
21 APR DE Dresden Chemiefabrik
24 APR IT Sezzadio Cascina Bellaria Music Club
25 APR IT Pescara Tube Cult Fest
26 APR IT Treviso Krach Club
28 APR FR Troyes The Message
29 APR FR Nantes La Scène Michelet
02 MAY NL Zwolle Eureka Zwolle
03 MAY UK London Desertfest London
04 MAY UK Bournemouth Anvil Rockbar Bournemouth
05 MAY FR Rouen Le 3 Pièces Muzik’Club
06 MAY FR Dijon MondoFuzz
07 MAY FR Paris La Pointe Lafayette
09 MAY DK Esbjerg Esbjerg Fuzztival

Monarch is:
Dominic Denholm – Guitar/Vocals
Thomas Dibenedetto – Guitar
James Upton – Guitar
Matt Weiss – Bass
Andrew Ware – Drums

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Monarch Premiere “Counterpart” Video; Beyond the Blue Sky out Aug. 9

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monarch

The kind of sunshine that the rest of the world imagines only exists in Southern California plays a significant role in the listening experience of Monarch‘s second album, Beyond the Blue Sky. The title, of course, isn’t about the sun, but about the entirety of space, and the idea of leaving the planet’s atmosphere behind to launch into the void beyond. Fair enough for the cosmic impulses the classically progressive San Diego five-piece weave into the seven tracks/38 minutes of the El Paraiso Records LP, but they remain grounded with a natural sense of songwriting beneath the wash of effects, lush echoes, sax, synth and so on, as songs like opener “Hanging by a Thread” sneak their way into the frontal cortex and set up shop there via guitar-in-triplicate and groove to match, the band pushing aside some of the boogie for which their home-burg is known in favor of these interplanetary ambitions. Oh, it suits them just fine, whether in the ol’ roll ‘n’ nod of the aforementioned leadoff or the sax-laden fluidity of “Divided Path,” which follows.

“Hanging by a Thread” is both the opener and the longest song on Beyond the Blue Sky at 7:06 (immediate points), and “Divided Path,” “Pangea” and the centerpiece title-track follow in descending order (quadruple points?), so monarch beyond the blue skythe intent on Monarch‘s part toward listener-immersion is pretty well telegraphed, but as ever for the best of psychedelic rock, the point of the voyage is the going, and they go pretty far out. With the vocals of guitarist Dominic Denholm cutting through the wash of tone and fuzz on “Divided Path,” calling to mind Greg Lake-era King Crimson on the jazzy “Pangea” and the flow conjured all around by fellow guitarists Thomas Dibenedetto (also Sacri Monti) and James Upton, bassist Matt Weiss and Andrew Ware, unafraid to tap into country sweetness on “Beyond the Blue Sky” itself at the outset of a three-parter with the synthy “Phenomena” and the shimmering psych of “Counterpart” rounding out, with watery closer “Felo de Se” still to arrive, there’s no question they reach the level of engagement they seem to be shooting for at the launch, pulling their audience with them as they make every effort to live up to the title and, seemingly, getting there as well. Like its predecessor, Two Isles (review here), Beyond the Blue Sky has more than a few moments of outright gorgeousness, but it’s the way it all complements each other that makes it so essential.

Which it is. Even among the crowded ranks of San Diego, Monarch stand themselves out through the progressive modus of their approach, and while they share an affinity for classic stylizations with a good number of their peers, their take on it is decidedly their own and shines through performance and songwriting alike.

You can check out the premiere of a tripped-out video for “Counterpart” below, made by Ricky Macaw, who pretty much nailed it. Beyond the Blue Sky is out Aug. 9.

Enjoy:

Monarch, “Counterpart” official video premiere

There’s something refreshing about Monarch’s take on psychedelic rock: they aren’t afraid to weave allman brothers-esque dual guitar lines with synthesizers and saxophone. They can be heavy, but there’s an unmistakable panoramic quality to their compositions too, reflecting the rich and diverse environment they’ve grown up in, with dazzling pacific coastlines, mountains and desert highways.

Compared to their debut album, ”Two Isles” from 2016, Beyond The Blue Sky is a more complex record. The three year journey has led the band through several separate recording sessions and ended up going all-analog at Audio Design studios. It’s an album that’s meticulously crafted and with sights set on new musical territory. Their songwriting has matured and each track feels like a mini-epic, travelling unexpected routes before reaching their sonic destination. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album’s centerpiece, the three-part Beyond The Blue Sky/Phenomena/Counterpart, where Monarch manages to fuse all their influences into one mammoth composition. It’s an album to drive off into a careless summer sunset and beyond.

Monarch is:
Dominic Denholm – Guitar/Vocals
Thomas Dibenedetto – Guitar
James Upton – Guitar
Matt Weiss – Bass
Andrew Ware – Drums

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Jonas Munk & Nicklas Sørensen to Release Always Already Here in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Alright, now you listen to me because I’m probably only going to say this seven or eight more times. You set some silly little alert on your phone or you sign up for an email list from El Paraiso Records or you do whatever you have to do, and when Jonas Munk & Nicklas Sørensen‘ debut collaborative album, Always Already Here, is back in for preorder, you get that order in and you make that happen, because it’s the only way they’re going to keep doing records together and FOR THE SAKE OF ALL HUMANITY, that is a thing we very much want. Munk, of course of Danish heavy prog-psych instrumentalists Causa Sui, and Sørensen, of countrymen expansive jammers Papir, have both done solo outings through El Paraiso in the past, and that’s super, but if you’re curious why I might be approaching this topic with such a measure of urgency, listen to the track “Shift” below. True, it’s only one song, and I’m sure it doesn’t necessarily speak to the character of the entire album, but god damn it, this is the kind of shit that when the aliens come to destroy our species because we wasted the planet, we’ll be able to point to and say, “Yeah, but some of us made this stuff,” and maybe, just maybe, get away unvaporized.

Release date is Aug. 16.

Make it so:

jonas munk nicklas sorensen always already here

Jonas Munk & Nicklas Sørensen: Always Already Here

We’re proud to announce this collaborative effort from Jonas Munk (Causa Sui) and Nicklas Sørensen (Papir), out August 16th! Read more and swim away in the 10 minute opening track here.

Jonas Munk and Nicklas Sørensen team up for a genre-defying record that explores American minimalism, psychedelia, and electronic music – both vintage and contemporary. On a foundation of interlocking guitar and synthesizer patterns, the duo constructs lengthy pieces that are experimental yet welcoming in nature, precisely executed yet with room for soaring improvisation.

Always Already Here pays homage to the masters of classical minimalism (Steve Reich, Terry Riley) and the pioneers of electronic music and kosmische (Brian Eno, Manuel Göttsching), still it doesn’t sound derivative or retrospective. The type of hypnotic bliss Munk and Sørensen strive for is distinctly timeless.

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