Causa Sui: Live in Copenhagen
El Paraiso Records

With three vinyl albums housed in a deluxe slipcase box (1000 copies) and inner sleeves that evoke 1970's Miles Davis At Fillmore, Live in Copenhagen impresses as the definitive live document of Causa Sui to date. Three years separate the two performances, with the August 9th, 2013 Dragens Hule appearance tied to Euporie Tide's release and the April 29th, 2016 Jazzhouse performance to the release of Return To Sky. As such, the sixteen tracks and 140-minute running time offer an encompassing portrait of the band, and, in keeping with the live format, an oft blistering one. Bolstering the music's intensity, guitarist Jonas Munk, keyboards player Rasmus Rasmussen, bassist Jess Kahr, and drummer Jakob Skøtt are joined on a number of cuts by Swedish saxophonist Johan Riedenlow and Papir guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, and not only are classics from the Causa Sui catalogue tackled, an epic seventeen-minute treatment of “A Love Supreme” appears, too.

The Dragens Hule performances begin with a dreamy, Popol Vuh-like take on “Eternal Flow” that documents the group's textural side. In a spectacular display of guitar interplay, the ever-resourceful Munk's nicely complemented by Sørensen as the two advance through a thirteen-minute treatment that incrementally builds from delicate restraint to blissed-out ecstasy. The later “Euporie” likewise captures the two in full flight, with Hendrixian wail, low-end sludge, and psychedelic wah-wah filling the air in equal measure.

Spearheaded by its bruising lead riff, “El Paraiso” roars with an aplomb guaranteed to satisfy the fan base's appetite for stoner rock, and with a lethal guitar figure leading the charge, the aptly titled “Homage” sees the band paying obeisance to both Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream and Nirvana's Nevermind. “Mireille” advances from the breezy, open air freshness of its opening theme into heavier territory with machine-like precision, while Agitation Free's “First Communication” receives an elegiac cover treatment by the Sørensen-enhanced outfit.

Riedenlow joins the band for a fifteen-minute reading of “Portixeddu / Tropic of Capricorn” that sees the rhythm section providing a muscular bottom end for scalding, blues-jazz soloing by Munk and free-form, Brötzmann-styled wail by the saxophonist. The voicing of that familiar modal figure signifies the arrival of “A Love Supreme,” and Riedenlow wastes little time making his presence felt. The journey's long and as such allows the music ample opportunity to change course, advancing as it does from a controlled intro to increasingly tumultuous episodes and near-collapses featuring the saxophonist handling the vocal chant and screaming through his horn.

Three years on from the Dragens Hule sets, the Jazzhouse show reveals Causa Sui's power hasn't diminished. With Riedenlow again guesting, “Rip Tide” snarls with abandon, after which the band digs into “The Source” with blues-funk conviction. “The Juice” and “Dawn Passage” capture the group's penchant for serenading with mellifluous elegance one moment and pummeling with awe-inspiring fury the next. Closing out this comprehensive collection, “Ju-Ju Blues” builds from its smooth, jazz-tinged opening into a seriously burning steamroller.

Though Munk's playing is the focal point, the others are key to Causa Sui, too. Kahr and Skøtt are in sync with the guitarist at every moment, and Rasmussen enhances the material with textural colour, organ-generated and otherwise. One comes away from these live performances impressed by how effectively Causa Sui operates as an agile, multi-limbed unit capable of executing shifts in dynamics and mood with a telepathy that comes from years of playing together. Of course long-time fans will already know that Live in Copenhagen isn't the first live set in the band's catalogue, with the double-LP Live at Freak Valley having preceded it. But as solid as that 2014 release is, it can't help but be overshadowed by the new collection, which for now must be regarded as the seminal live presentation of the band.

June 2017