Causa Sui : Vibraciones Doradas

When I think of Denmark’s Causa Sui I think of vast open spaces. I think of widescreen grooves and vacuum tubes a-glow with the orange of humming fuzz. This four-piece have made it their mission to not be pigeonholed by any one genre or mindset. They explore the dark corners of Sabbath-ian dirges to the highfalutin ambient worlds Eno and Froese to the sizzle, cracks, and headiness of electric Miles. Causa Sui serves not one master, but whichever muse shows up at the studio door. And with that “whichever way the wind is blowing in Odense” vibe, these four sonic explorers add their own secret recipe to the bubbling, musical cauldron. They turn their influence and inspiration on its head and serve it up as something new and weird and beautiful.

Return To Sky was the last studio LP to come from Causa Sui, way back in 2016 before the world began to crumble apart. And earlier this year the guys laid on us the massive Live In Copenhagen, which was a massive 3-LP set that captures two very unique live sets from 2013 and 2016 respectively. So now, the Sui bois snuck back into planet El Paraiso studios, taking with them only various fuzz boxes, drums, amps, and plenty of Danish lager and worked out the excellent and teeth-chattering Vibraciones Doradas. They’re calling this a mini-LP, but at well over 30 minutes this is a full-fledged mind-melting long player.

“The Drop” greets you at the door and quickly blows the hat off your head. It’s a massive flashback to early 90s scuzz and stoner rock, but with a little more muscle mass. Jakob Skott and Jess Kahr lay down a massive, chugging foundation to which Jonas Munk does his best to outdo Kim Thayil in the fuzzy riff department. Seriously, this track blows the barn doors off and explodes like a nuclear-powered freight train. As the seven minute track winds down Rasmus Rasmussen adds som tasteful keys that lull us into the stick-to-your-ribs behemoth that is “El Fuego”.

I suppose you could say that “El Fuego” is the core of this collection. It’s an 11-minute fuzzy, psychedelic epic. It roars and lashes like some angry sea and then calms in the middle, giving a false sense of security. Soon enough things build back up as the drums become more unruly and feedback and sci-fi explosions become more prominent. Rasmussen’s keys sound as if Ray Manzarek is somewhere out in that violent swirl of noise and desert rock riffage. Munk almost sounds to be summoning the Siamese Dream-era Pumpkins towards the end. It’s an elegant, sonic world they’ve built here.

If you blink(or get up to grab another beer) you may miss the wonderfully dreamy “Viborera”. It’s a space-y, two minute interlude that brings to mind the work of Rasmussen’s Aerosol and more recent Astral TV(hell, even Munk’s exquisite noise excursions with Ulrich Schnauss come to mind as well.) It’s one of those tracks that you must play it a few times in a row to savor it.

We’re then treated to a guitar crunch meltdown with the bone-crushing “Seven Hills”. There’s nothing ambient going on here. This is pure, molten, bedrock fuzz rock. This is Roadburn-worthy rock and roll sludge. I’m thinking a show with Earthless, Mugstar, and Causa Sui somewhere near the equator might just set the earth back on its axis and things might start to improve. “Seven Hills” is just an all-out monster rock mind melter.

We close this album out with title track “Vibraciones Doradas”. It’s about as doom-laden as I’ve ever heard Causa Sui. There’s some serious Big Muff vibes going on here, with Matt Pike smiling somewhere in the universe as this is played. I really can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to 2017 than playing this at high volume, annoyed neighbors be damned. But so as to not end on a chugging note, the song seems to melt into the universe and rise back up as something new, much like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Munk and Kahr add some tasteful fret work halfway thru and the song begins to morph into something less doomy; something lighter that seems to take off into the atmosphere.

Vibraciones Doradas shows Causa Sui continuing to build upon their musical journey, blazing through genres, styles, vibes, and moods with ease. For the most part this record is a barn burner, a rock and roll feast for the ears. It showcases the band’s ear for riffs and grooves, but also their willingness to pull back and let the universe expand our brains a bit. Munk, Kahr, Rasmussen, and Skott continue to be one of the most vital musical forces creating today. Vibraciones Doradas is proof of that.

8.4 out of 10

Videodrones’ “Maniac City”

Somewhere, hazily floating in the ether, is where Videodrones lie. This synth duo encompass a musical world filled with supernatural dread, dark occult doom, undead creatures just over the horizon, and unseen forces lurking in your psyche. They create musical interludes for b-movies you never saw in the late 70s and early 80s. Don’t bother looking for titles like “Blood Brew”, “Helena Markos”, or “Stalker State” because no video store has those titles. These dark musical treats were cooked up inside the two minds behind Videodrones. But if you put your head to the speaker something in your brain will click. You’ll head back in time to the darkness of the family den, lit only by the console TV screen and the Betamax player sitting on top of the wooden box from where that screen glows. Visions of Fulci, Argento, Romero, and Carpenter dance across that old Zenith making your blood run cold as you swear you saw something move outside the window. Was it a zombie? A demon? A scantily clad Italian woman being chased by a zombie demon?

When I first heard Videodrones and their debut, 2016s Mondo Ferox, I was completely taken back to my childhood of rummaging through the local video store and searching for those classic horror films magazines like Fangoria, Gore Zone, and Slaughterhouse told me I should find. This Danish synth duo tapped into a very specific musical vein. The music is familiar yet completely new and alien. They create analog dread. It’s something I can listen to late at night with headphones and get lost into some imaginary film. Fabio Frizzi, Popol Vuh, and Tangerine Dream haunt the corners of Videodrones, but they’re working on an entirely unique musical chemistry.

Given that Videodrones Mondo Ferox was one of my favorite records of 2016, I wasn’t expecting another record from them to show up on my favorite list this year. As it happens these guys were busy the last few months because they are readying a new LP called Nattens Hævn and it’s amazing. They’ve released a song from it called “Maniac City” and it’s, you guessed it, amazing.

“Maniac City” gets in and out rather quickly, but like so many musical accompaniments to those classic sci fi/horror films they pull inspiration from that’s really the point. With a mix of Bobby Beausoleil, Fabio Frizzi, and even a touch of Popol Vuh, this track lays down the heavy vibes with a doomy choir and bubbly synth. There’s a real City Of The Living Dead(the copy I watched as a kid was called The Gates Of Hell) feel here. The song adds some drum programming and we head into Brad Fiedel territory(The Terminator S/T is highly underrated, guys.) It’s a perfect mix of improvisational glee and tension-building intent. Late night fever dream soundtrack.

I try not to let nostalgia get in the way of being an objective observer of art. I don’t want childhood memories clouding my judgement, but Videodrones have dialed in just the right creepy frequency for me. It’s the best of both worlds; imagined horror soundtrack and serious improvisational noise making. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Nattens Hævn arrives the end of July through El Paraiso Records. Preorder the album here.

 

 

Mythic Sunship : Land Between Rivers

Mythic Sunship seem to have appeared out of some ancient musical text. Through sounds and textures as old as weathered folklore and whispers under the breath in the shadows of centuries-old mountaintops, these Danish musicians make music both primitive and not of this earth. Like thunder clapping in the distance, their new album Land Between Rivers takes its first breath as a quiet chattering, but soon pours its mighty roar down and never lets up. Never. Mythic Sunship made their initial landing last year with their fiery Ourboros. It made no qualms about what Mythic Sunship were about, which was pummeling guitar, crushing drums, and epic songs that sounded like explosives battles put to music.

On Land Between Rivers opener “Nishapur” their ear-shattering mission statement stays on point. It opens with quiet, brooding guitar that builds into a cacophony of fuzz and distortion. Quite literally a wall of noise. Drums crashing like angry waves against the hull of a ship, guitar squall bashing into itself over and over, and bass acting as an anchor so as to not let the song fly into orbit “Nishapur” is a bludgeoning of the senses.

It’s one hell of an opener.

“High Tide” has an almost garage-y vibe in its opening moments. Motor City acid fuzz sprinkled with something sinister; something not of this earth. Soon enough though Mythic Sunship hit the interstellar overdrive button and light speed is reached. Anything resembling the gritty streets of Detroit in 1969 are washed away by the primitive drum beats and hazy, reverbed guitars that knock our psyche into orbit. There’s a sense the Sunship crew have tapped into some subconscious, Altered States-like primitive instinct. I’m not calling these cats cavemen by any means. I mean, what caveman could man a rockin’ ship this advanced? What I do mean is that they’ve gone deep in search of the essence of heavy here. They’re going back to the beginnings of that heavy, far out sound. Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, and all those other brave souls that took that one small musical step for man, so that there could be that one giant musical leap for mankind. They leave the frills, movements, suites, and concepts for the art school types and wordy chaps. Here we have pure rock concentrate.

“Silt” finds us in a haze of distortion and feedback. It’s like being lost in a blazing ball of white light. Blind to the world, you can only feel your way around the room in a glow of distilled energy. Soon enough the light fades and in its place is a darkened sky, lightning pulsating just behind the storm clouds. It’s an overwhelming display of power and existential doom. “Silt” is the heaviest Mythic Sunship have gotten, cresting Om and Sunn O))) territory, but without all that unnecessary chanting. If you turn this one up to 11 you may disintegrate before you reach the end.

Land Between Rivers sounds like a band in the midst of a musical storm. Mythic Sunship have upped themselves and their debut with an album that wastes no time getting around to melting your psyche. With three tracks spanning over 30 minutes, the Sunship lock into a distortion-laden groove and never let up until our ears are buzzing and the space/time continuum has been fully disrupted. Land Between Rivers is blissful, primitive rock for the new millennium space traveler.

8. 4 out of 10

Transatlantic Chill : The Hazy Significance of Billow Observatory

by J. Hubner

Photos by Jonas Munk

When words like “ambient” and “atmospheric” are brought in to describe a band’s music you may have the urge to yawn, stretch, or leave the room. Visions of purple clouds, slow motion shots of a falcon flying in a dusky sky, or Tibetan streams running along wooded views accompanied by a Yamaha DX-7, gated reverbed electronic percussion, and maybe some muted “oohs” and “ahhs” may begin to form in your mind. Please erase all of that from your brain because what we’re about to talk about invokes none of those new age-y tropes, but you may just elevate to the astral plane just the same.

Billow Observatory is a transatlantic music duo that consists of Auburn Lull’s Jason Kolb and Causa Sui’s Jonas Munk. Their music is very meditative and, well, atmospheric, but in a really trippy, hallucinogenic way. It’s electronic music that gives you the feeling of falling slowly through space or internally like some existential trip to find oneself. Both guys have chartered similar territory in their main gigs(see Auburn Lull’s Cast From The Platform and Jonas Munk’s Absorb Fabric Cascade for wonderful examples), but in Billow Observatory they find this beautifully positive space to let the music grow and expand to epic proportions. There’s elements of Eno-esque drone, but there’s also a shoegaze-y element that brings the music to earth.

Kolb and Munk released the first Billow Observatory long player in 2012 and have just released that album’s follow-up, the excellent II: Plains/Patterns on Azure Vista Records. I threw some questions at Jason and Jonas and they were happy to lob some answers back at me.

J. Hubner: So give me a little background on Billow Observatory. How did you two start this transatlantic musical partnership?

Jonas Munk: It all goes back to a post-surf hangout in Oceanside, San Diego 13 years ago. I was chilling poolside, having some good tequila with James from Darla Records (home of Munk’s past ambient project Manual and Auburn Lull) and Jesus from Spanish label Acuarela Records. We were all talking about how good the latest Auburn Lull record (Cast From The Platform) was – in fact it’s still one of my alltime fave records – and Jesus suggested we did a Manual/Auburn Lull 10” split EP for his label. The split EP never happened but it did get me in touch with the band and we started working together in 2005, if I remember correctly.

J. Hubner: What is the inspiration behind the ambient electronic tones you two create? Are there any particular albums you guys are pulling influence from?

Jonas Munk: I can recognize aspects of a really wide range of stuff in our music, but on this new record some of our all time fave ambient, minimalism and shoegaze albums have definitely had an impact on the final result. Eno’s more melodic collaborations (Evening Star, The Pearl,  Apollo), everything by Roedelius, Cluster, Slowdive’s Pygmalion, Aphex Twin’s SAW II and Stars Of The Lid. All the classics we’ve loved for decades basically! But also more modern electronic music (at least ”modern” 15 years ago) such as Pole, Jan Jelinek and the whole Scape catalog is something I’ve been listening to a lot for the past few years while working on this album.

Jason Kolb: In addition to everything above, I’ve been through a few pretty intense Kompakt and 12K phases in the last few years.  I also re-discovered and became totally obsessed with EAR’s The Köner Experiment, which may have subliminally influenced me a bit on this record.  Some of my earliest big influences were Nick McCabe (early Verve songs like Endless Life), Slowdive, and Eno’s Discreet Music, so those types of sounds always seem to creep in to whatever I’m doing.  

J. Hubner: It’s been a little over four years since the debut Billow LP. With II: Plains/Patterns, there seems to be a little more light shining in than the last time around. Did you two approach this album differently? Was the writing/sharing/recording process ongoing over years?

Jonas Munk: It was a little different this time around. First of all Jason suggested we started working with rhythmic elements – whereas the first album was produced without any tempos at all! That is, we didn’t sync anything to a grid. We also discussed adding more recognizable synth patterns and a wider palette of sounds in general. The first track we worked on for this album was Plains, and that really set the ”tone” of the entire thing. It just felt like a really inspiring starting point for a different kind of record.

J. Hubner: Can you walk me through the process of creation between you and Jason Kolb? How do these pieces usually start? Are you both playing guitar and synth, or are you to delegated to a single instrument? Maybe you could talk a little about the process for the track “Plum”, which I absolutely love. 

Jonas Munk: For pretty much every single track Jason would send me some guitar loops and different manipulated sounds and I would add to that and start building around those ideas and eventually send them back to Jason to add more stuff on. Actually I don’t think I’ve touched a guitar while making this album, I’ve mostly been adding sequences, rearranging things, added electronics and the occasional bass line. This actually is a bit unusual for us and for me personally as well – which is probably why this feels like such a fresh record to my ears. Usually I compose and play guitar a lot, no matter what project I’m working on. “Plum” is actually an exception since that’s the one track I started and Jason added guitars on top of that.

Jason Kolb: For this record, it felt like I was doing a lot of “send it and forget it”, where I’d send some some unpolished fragments and then Jonas would turn them into something nicely sculpted, structured, and musical.  I don’t have any strict rules about instrumentation, but it’s usually easiest for me to start with guitar loops and then occasionally add some subtle synth or treatments here and there.

J. Hubner: What sort of equipment are you guys using? Both analog and digital synths? Do you guys get together for the mixing and sequencing aspect of the album? 

Jonas Munk: We hardly did any work while being in the same room for this one. In September last year we spent some time driving around Detroit listening to everything and discussing the mixes, the sequencing and stuff – which also explains why most of the tracks reference Detroit street names – but we actually had most the album down at that point already. As for equipment I use everything really: analog synths, plugins, guitar pedals. I did a lot of analog filter sequencing for this album, playing around with my Moogerfoogers and my Waldorf and MFB filterboxes. And software sampling always plays a big role for me when working on Billow material, cause there’s always quite a lot of drastic sound processing going on!

Jason Kolb: Pretty much anything goes as far as equipment is concerned, but I tried to use more filtering pedals and plug-ins that would add some subtle pulse and pop on this record.  I specifically used a Moogerfooger Murf quite a bit with various reverb and delay pedals.  I also found that running huge reverbs into vocoder plugins can be pretty interesting! I really wish we could  get together more and work in the same room at the same time, but we’ve been pretty lucky with the way things have worked out so far with trading files.

J. Hubner: Have you guys ever performed live together? Is it a possibility?

Jonas Munk: Not so far. But could be interesting. It’s always quite a challenge performing with this kind of music, since processing and editing plays such a big role. But actually some of these new pieces lend themselves more easily to perfomance than the first album.

J. Hubner: So Jonas, this is the second release for your newly minted record label Azure Vista. The debut album was ‘Passage’, your second collaboration with Ulrich Schnauss. You seem to be off to a great start. Two beautiful and rich albums filled with all that analog good stuff. Can you tell us what’s next for Azure Vista?

Jonas Munk: Thanks! Actually it was a bit of a last minute decision to start another label, but we needed a home for ”Passage” and the Billow Observatory was actually being finalized at that point and we wanted to release it as soon as possible – one of the major benefits of having your own label is not having to wait to fit it into a label’s (sometimes very busy) schedule. And Jakob (Skøtt) had time to help out with the artworks, he’s super quick and his skills are absolutely unparalelled. So everything materialized super quickly and now it seems there’ll actually be at least three more releases this year. Not sure I can reveal the next one, but it involves a LOT of gorgeous synth and will be out early summer!

J. Hubner: I know it’s rather premature to ask, but is there a possibility for another Billow Observatory album in the next couple of years? With a dedicated record label for just that kind of blissed-out ambient music, will it make it easier to get music out to people?

Jonas Munk: We actually worked on some new stuff in Jason’s studio in Detroit in September, so there’s definitely new music happening. Whether it’s gonna be for an EP by the end of the year or another full length five years from now is impossible to say at this point.

J. Hubner: I hope this album really catches on as it’s a beautiful musical experience. Art of the highest order. Hopefully Azure Vista can get this kind of music into more ears. 

Jonas Munk: I hope the label will generate enough attention to make it possible to build a small, but important catalog. This kind of music is not like super hip or anything, so it’s not really that easy selling a lot of physical copies – which is needed for a proper financial flow. There’s always a fine line and I need to pay attention to how I spend my time –  if a record only sells 150 copies and the expenses doesn’t recoup it’s hard to justify spending hundreds of working hours on it. But we’ll see. Electronic and ambient music has suffered terrible sales for some years, whereas the rock/psych/stoner crowd (which is responsible for a big part of the El Paraiso catalog) are super loyal to the bands they follow and to physical mediums in general. While ambient music and, say, shoegaze has been off the radar for a while, it never disappears completely and I think there’ll always be people looking out for really personal, innovative material of high quality. I think labels are more important now than ever, since the internet is just flooded with music all the time. So the best way for listeners to navigate through the ocean of sounds is to have some really trusted presences that present things in a really focused way – ie with a narrow attention on specific genres and aesthetics.

J. Hubner: I think that could be an entirely different but important conversation to have at some point.

Jonas Munk: I could go on about the internet and the state of music for hours, but let’s just say it’s both a blessing and a curse! All in all I’m extremely thankful that I’m still able to make a living creating music and selling records. Considering the amount of (free) music out there I actually consider it a small miracle, and these days I’m absolutely enjoying every second of it!


Billow Observatory’s II: Plains/Patterns is available now on Azure Vista Records. Pick up a copy here. Look up Jason Kolb’s band Auburn Lull here, and check out Jonas Munk’s solo endeavors over at El Paraiso. If you like it, buy it.

Causa Sui : Live In Copenhagen

So one day last week I arrived home from work to see a cardboard box waiting for me on the front porch. When I went to pick it up I thought at first that someone had sent me a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas from Denmark as this thing was heavy. Like, really heavy. After further examination it dawned on me that I was holding Causa Sui’s Live In Copenhagen and dropped everything in my hands and made a bee line for the turntable.

It’s been a few weeks since the preorder went up for this mammoth 3-LP set, but we’ve made the most of it(Petty once said the waiting was the hardest part. He must preorder albums, too.) I went back and revisited some Causa Sui LPs I thought you good people should definitely check out if you hadn’t already. It was a swift reminder for me that these musicians from Denmark have done some major expansion in their sound since those early days. From stoner fuzz rock to experimental and expansive, the quartet known as Causa Sui have opened their brains and let some freaky sh*t get in, which is all the better for you and me. And with the studio wizardry getting better so has their live set. Live In Copenhagen shows the band in 2013 and in 2016. LP 1 is live at the Jazzhouse for the Return To Sky release show, while LPs 2 and 3 are live at Dragens Hule for the album release of Empori Tide. Both sets are on fire and show a band hungry to spread their gospel to as many ears as they can. Highlights? You want highlights? Well okay then.

Let’s start with Live at the Jazzhouse from April 29th, 2016. This set opens with “Rip Tide”, a fiery explosion of cry baby wah, drums being beaten into submission, and organ that sounds like it’s on fire with wailing saxophone joining the cacophony of noise. Imagine Jimi Hendrix and the Experience, with special guests Ken Hensley on organ and John Coltrane freaking out on acid. That’s the scene going on here. I can only imagine the faces melting in the audience. This Summer Sessions Vol.2 track never burned and smoldered quite like this before. Return To Sky’s “Mondo Buzzo” sounds like an ancient tribal incantation used to bring the Gods of Rock back from their eternal slumber(which started right after the release of Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.) Munk, Kahr, Rasmussen, and Skott pull this one off beautifully. If there was a 90s album that I feel Causa Sui channel it’s Soundgarden’s Superunknown. That record’s ferocity and visceral slap in the face is alive and well with Causa Sui, and this live version of “Mondo Buzzo” is sonic gut punch for sure. The breezy vibe of Euporie Tide’s “Ju-Ju Blues” is a welcome respite from the massive crunch we experienced up to this point. It has an almost Doors-y vibe with Rasmussen’s organ and Skott’s jazzy drumming. But in this version Krieger was replaced by Jeff Beck. Pretty soon the earth is cracking open and molten lava is spraying everywhere. This is an epic 10-minute banger, people.

Face. Melted.

When we move to LP 2 we step back in time to August 9th, 2013 at the release show of Euporie Tide. This was the album I was introduced to Causa Sui by, but it took the Pewt’r Sessions to pull me in completely. That’s not to say Euporie didn’t impress me. It did. In fact, they play an amazing version of that album’s “Eternal Flow” at the start of LP 2. It’s amazing the volume four guys can get on such a small stage. They could be at Red Rocks by the sound of this. Then they jump into a brain-melting version of “El Paraiso” that would delight fans of anything from Santana to Graveyard. It’s both a balls out rocker and a psychedelic journey. Side D sports “Portixeddu/Tropic Of Capricorn”. It’s over 15 minutes of psyche-melting noise. Put on some headphones, drop the needle, and you’re welcome.

LP 3 opens with a great cover of Agitation Free’s “First Communication”, followed by a powerful “Homage” from Euporie Tide. “Red Valley” ends side E on a high note with one of Causa Sui’s most doomy tracks in their repertoire. You can almost see the stage morph into some post-apocalyptic desert scene as the song blows into a Sleep-like dirge. Side F is taken up by a Causa Sui-approved version of John Coltrane’s masterpiece “A Love Supreme”. The band welcome Johan Riedenlow back to the stage to sit in for the legendary Coltrane and they take the jazz epic on a ride through 50 years of music history. Instead of attempting a “paint-by-numbers” version of the piece, Causa Sui and Riedenlow open the song up into a psychedelic jam session. It’s a massive piece that pays homage to a legend while still maintaining the essence of these four lads from Odense(don’t worry, you can still chant “Love Supreme, Love Supreme” right along with it.)

I was never a big fan of live LPs. I think something is lost in the translation from stage to stereo. You may get an accurate take on a band’s work, but the sweat, aura, and buzzing heat of that magical space is lost. There have been a few live sets that I’m glad to have in my collection as they do have the ability to pull you into that evening, even if you’re just buzzed on the couch at home. Wilco’s Kicking Television, The Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East, Television’s Live At The Old Waldorf, and now Causa Sui’s Live In Copenhagen. There’s a few other great live LPs, but these are the handful I swear by. Causa Sui’s other live album, Live At Freak Valley is well worth your time, but sonically Live In Copenhagen is just amazing. It shows just how much of a force these guys are live.

Put this one in your ears.

9.3 out of 10

Want to hear this but you’re not into antiquated forms of music delivery? No problem, you can download this over at El Paraiso Records in MP3 or FLAC form. There’s extra tracks as well that aren’t included in the vinyl version. So go get it.

 

Monarch : Two Isles

Ahh, Southern California sure knows how to mold and shape guys and gals intotwo isles laid back, jammy musicians. There’s this breezy, hazy vibe that comes from a city like San Diego that you can’t get anywhere else in the country. In-particular, psych rock has had somewhat of a resurgence in that area, with heavy hitters like Earthless, Astra, and the musical world of Brian Ellis dominating. Another band making some serious noise is Monarch. This 5-piece takes their cues from a more laid back place. Bluesy, jazzy guitar, soulful vocals, and a killer swing in the rhythms, Monarch sound like a beefed up Allman Brothers Band with hints of Band of Gypsies and Santana thrown in for good measure. Their three-guitar attack definitely brings to mind some of the highlights of At Fillmore East, while also cooking up something completely unique. On their debut LP Two Isles, these California native sons have something for everyone; jazzy improvisation stacked onto jangly AOR-style jams with a healthy dose of that southern California, sun-kissed psych freak out. In other words, Two Isles covers all the bases and then some.

Tiptoeing through the acid-burnt, tie-dyed world of psych rock can be a tricky game. It can be hard to find a balance where you’re not alienating one group of fans or another. Head too far in one direction and some folks will be turned off by the druggy vibe, while if you head too far into the mainstream you’ll be seen as milquetoast(ask Howlin’ Rain about that.) Fortunately for our ears Monarch find a perfect balance of 70s radio jams and the more deep cut album tracks most DJs would happily roll one up and light up to.

“Two Isles” tears this album open with some swinging, jazzy drums courtesy of stick man Andrew Ware and some seriously killer guitar harmonies before coming down like a hard rain with some great soulful vocals by lead singer and guitarist Dominic Denholm. The production, courtesy of southern California music guru Brian Ellis, gives Monarch’s sound an open-aired, loose vibe that works to add some serious open sky bigness to the already killer tracks. “Hundreds, Thousands, Millions” is vast and dizzying with some dreamy phaser-effected guitar that brings to mind earlier Tame Impala, but much clearer and wider in scope than Kevin Parker’s early, muffled lo fi psych. “Assent” rolls along some serious guitar jangle that once again raises the spirit of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Seriously, this isn’t chicken scratch guitar. Monarch’s guitar power trio know how to abuse a six-string just right. “Dancers Of The Sun” swings and sways in all the right directions, while “Sedna’s Fervor” is tasteful jazz rock with just a hint of patchouli to heighten your senses. Probably the heaviest track here, with some prog-rock leanings. Album closer “Shady Maiden” clocks in close to 10 minutes and is all tight grooves, wandering jams, and some serious spacey vibes. You can almost hear the waves breaking on the shore on this one. Monarch end this record in serious So Cal style.

Two Isles is one of those rare records that will appeal to both young guys and gals just entering the psych world, as well as cats that were drinking draft beers watching a young Duane Allman tear it up on his SG in a little club somewhere in Florida back in 1969. Young or old, Monarch are speaking to you. Two Isles is that album you and your dad can finally agree on.

7.8 out of 10

Landing : Third Sight

Landing seems to inhabit a musical space that resides in dreams. They createlanding these musical patchworks that form a beautiful and surreal world where natural light and free thought connect and open doorways to ethereal universes. Of course, you have to be ready and primed to allow the music on Landing’s newest album Third Sight to do such magical things to your brain. If you’re not, well you may just hear nothing more than noise fading in and out. Electrical disturbances between your ears. Connecticut’s Landing don’t dabble in fluff. They’re cooking up the good stuff.

Since the mid-nineties Aaron Snow and Adrienne Snow have been making and performing music together. Their mix of ambient dream pop and pulsating, hazy space/psych rock has been the East coast’s best kept secret for 20 years. They’ve amassed a solid and loyal fan base, with one of those fans being Causa Sui guitarist and El Paraiso Records co-owner Jonas Munk. Third Sight, Landing’s newest musical adventure, is an improvisational three-song journey filled with hypnotic loops, wavering synth, and ethereal vocals in the tradition of Tangerine Dream, Kurt Stenzel’s Jodorowsky’s Dune S/T, and Rich Millman’s Night Flights. It’s a heady musical journey to say the least.

“Delusion Sound/Third Site” slowly makes its way into the light with what sounds like ancient loops hissing and ticking their way back to life before drums and guitar make their presence known. Once the vocals arrive the song morphs into a cross between Wooden Shjips and a peaceful, swirling vortex. Landing have a knack for allowing their songs to dissipate into the atmosphere as the song sees fit, which makes for a peaceful and quite beautiful fade out. “Delusion Sound” withers majestically into the sunset, “Third Site” bounces with jaunty synths, not unlike something Terry Riley might have offered up 40 years ago. The song feels like a through point to some other realm. If you’re not familiar with Rich Millman’s Night Flights you should make yourself familiar. “Third Site” taps into that ambient beauty Night Flights captures as well. “Facing South” reminds me of all those amazing song intros that Robert Smith would give his tunes in the mid to late eighties. Those pieces you wish were songs themselves. “Morning Sun” closes the album out. With its 14 minute time frame you could say the song is an epic closer, and you wouldn’t be wrong. There’s no hurry on this album, and “Morning Sun” feels like a stroll through a snow-covered forest. It’s deep thoughts overlooking a frozen lake; or waiting for the sun to disappear from the horizon. Time is of no concern here. Nearly eight minutes in and Adrienne Snow’s ethereal vocals come in, but only for a moment. She seems to be carried off on a cloud of synth and guitar haze.

Third Sight is a beautiful escape from reality. It envelopes you into a cloud of repeating motifs and escalating white noise. Landing make these kaleidoscopes of sound that feel impressionistic and avante garde at the same time. Saying it’s ambient music takes some of the heaviness and headiness this great band creates away, so I’ll call what they make dream psych. Third Sight feels and sounds like an epiphany. Simple, yet all encompassing.

8. 3 out of 10