Black Cube Marriage: Astral Cube
El Paraiso Records

Mythic Sunship: Land Between Rivers
El Paraiso Records

Copenhagen outfit Mythic Sunship (Emil Thorenfeldt, Frederik Denning, Kasper Stougaard Andersen, and Rasmus Cleve Christensen) replicates the incendiary roar of its El Paraiso debut Ouroboros on this thirty-five-minute follow-up. With Causa Sui's Jonas Munk handling mixing duties, the group recorded Land Between Rivers in a wooden cabin in the north of Sealand, Denmark, the music so powerful it's hard to believe the cabin's still standing. As with the earlier album, the new one's well-fitted for a vinyl presentation, which in this case is available in a 750-copy run.

Not to take anything away from its fearless bass-and-drum foundation, but it's Mythic Sunship's two-guitar front-line that gives the music such raw intensity. The interplay between the six-strings makes its impression felt at the album's outset when “Nishapur” awakens like some primal beast, the quartet's bruising sound smoldering and escalating in power as it drags itself across the scorched earth. Psychedelic waves of guitars slash at the controlled mayhem engineered by the rhythm section, and by the time the group reaches the half-way mark of the fifteen-minute trip, the material's shredding so ferociously it's hard to imagine it could hit any harder.

In contrast to the bone-crushing lumber of “Nishapur,” “High Tide” bolts from the gate at a breakneck pace, one guitarist ecstatically spearheading the attack with sharply defined lines while the other drenches the material with fuzz and howl. An award of some kind should be given the bassist and drummer for somehow managing to hold the group's playing together when the guitarists' playing is so wild. Having thoroughly decimated the landscape, the four slow things down for “Silt” to survey the carnage, though muster the energy for one final go-round of low-end sludge before the journey's done. Heaviosity never felt so good.

Heavy too but in a rather different way is the latest project by Chicagoan Rob Mazurek, who's spearheaded a handful of audacious outfits over the years, Chicago Underground Duo, Exploding Star Orchestra, and Sao Paolo Underground among them, when not performing with the likes of Stereolab and Tortoise. Black Cube Marriage extends the vibe he developed in Black Cube SP (Sao Paolo Underground plus Thomas Rohrer) by adding Austin-based Jonathan Horne (guitar, saxophone), current New Yorker Steve Jansen (tapes, guitar), and Austin-based freeform quintet Marriage to the mix.

Though Mazurek's a cornetist, he's also recognized as a shamanistic sound alchemist with a jones for high-energy units, of which the eleven-member Black Cube Marriage is a prime example. The group pushes Sao Paolo Underground's wild fusion of bossa nova, electronics, krautrock and cosmic jazz into an even headier zone where elements of free jazz, abstract electronics, psychedelia, and Brazilian tropicalia collide. The eruptive brew the participants get up to is intimated by track titles alone, with ones such as “Magic Sun Ray,” “Time Shatters Forward,” and “Ecliptic Wave Burst” conveying the music's character. On the thirty-nine-minute Astral Cube, Mazurek and company sometimes stoke a Live-Evil-meets-On the Corner vibe but also evoke the spirit of ‘60s loft jams by NY free jazz denizens. Don't be surprised if names like Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, and Albert Ayler come to mind as the album plays.

Make no mistake, Astral Cube is strong and noisy stuff, but in a smart production move its accessibility is enhanced when six of the seven tracks clock in at three to four minutes apiece. Though the abrupt channel-shift that occurs from one meltdown to the next initially startles, it ultimately works in the album's favour when the scene rapidly cuts from the dense broil of “Spectral Convergence Wing,” for instance, to the cornet-driven declamations of “Fractal Signal Clone.” The typical setting arranges dense sprawls of percussion, electronics, voices, strings, and horns into mutant, multi-directional explorations held together by the leader's horn playing. At thirteen minutes, “Syncretic Illumine” naturally offers the most detailed group portrait, and the generous running time allows the band ample room to develop a thick, bass-thumping base for a swinging soprano sax solo. Less easy on the ears are “Magic Sun Ray” and “Ecliptic Wave Burst,” both of which rise to daunting levels of elephantine wail. Decidedly not for the faint of heart, as the saying goes.

June 2017