Causa Sui: Euporie Tide
El Paraiso Records

It's interesting to note that, given Causa Sui's organ-guitar-bass-and-drums setup, Euporie Tide could just as easily have been released in 1968 as 2013. The music isn't dated or old-fashioned, however, but instead timeless, and what makes it all the more interesting is that drummer Jakob Skøtt, guitarist Jonas Munk, keyboardist Rasmus Rasmussen, and bassist Jess Kahr have used their traditional gear to produce one of the year's freshest-sounding albums, not to mention one of its strongest. The Danish group didn't become the dextrous outfit it is today overnight: numerous albums have been released since 2005, including a three-volume Summer Sessions set that saw the group downplay the heavy psych-rock attack of its first albums and embrace the more free-form and stylistically encompassing approach that characterizes it today.

There's so much to like about the release. For starters, the music, regardless of whether post-editing was done or not, sounds live—and brilliantly live at that, especially when Euporie Tide captures the unit in full flight operating at the peak of its ability. The album's track sequencing works exceptionally well: it starts with a blazing statement of purpose and then proceeds to move through a series of short and long pieces in various styles—blues-rock, psych-folk, jazz-rock, etc.—that are tailor-made for a double-vinyl presentation. Transitions within the songs happen with a natural and organic ease, even when dramatic shifts occur. Best of all, the group achieves a near-perfect balance between improv and structure by grounding the tracks in punchy themes, and alternates between passages of savage aggression and pastoral delicacy with aplomb.

“Homage” makes for a perfect opener for being not only an incredibly strong argument for Causa Sui as an instrumental powerhouse but for explicitly acknowledging a number of reference points. During the track's ten-minute run, echoes of both Hendrix and Nirvana emerge, and traces of pastoral-prog, psych-rock, and grunge surface, too (the drum fills in one section play like a nod to Nirvana-era Dave Grohl). The full throttle attack is spearheaded by Skøtt and Munk and grounded by Kahr as the material rises and falls, in places scaling wild heights and in others pulling back to catch its breath. Less audible is Rasmussen (not surprisingly given the volcanic heat that surrounds him) who less solos than provides atmospheric textures to beef up the overall sound. Here and elsewhere, Munk's playing is light years removed from the controlled style of his Manual recordings. In Causa Sui, he plays like a man newly liberated and hellbent on unleashing an inner fire too long suppressed. Yes, there is an occasional delicate episode but more often Munk dishes out enough helpings of heavy metal riffing and wah-wah wailing (see “The Juice”) to satisfy any Black Sabbath fan.

Powered by a theme heavy on the wah-wah pedal, “Boozehound” pairs earthy blues-funk with buzzsaw grunge riffing. Despite its title, “Ju-Ju Blues” is as much about jazz as blues, with the band digging into the tune's lilting waltz tempo and wistful melodic material like some ‘60s jazz combo. In addition, the band's krautrock side comes to the fore during “Echo Springs,” its delicate free-flow giving Rasmussen's organ playing space to assert itself; a pronounced mellotron presence can't help but lend the vignette “Sota El Cel” a ‘70s prog dimension; and, resembling some early Popol Vuh reverie, the guitars-only “Fichelscher Sun” takes us out into the Danish countryside to breathe in the fresh air and take in the view. Another standout is “Mireille,” which, like “Homage,” impresses compositionally in the way it leaps from its pastoral intro to a barrelhouse swing and in the way the playing gradually intensifies as it works its way through a number of blistering climaxes. Transitions between episodes are executed so seamlessly, the effect is stunning, and the listener comes away from the track, like the album in general, in awe. It's an incredible collection by an incredible band.

October 2013