We Mythical Kings:
As a word, visitations means, among other things, contact by supernatural beings, be they phantoms, aliens, or spiritual entities, and in that regard there is something rather otherworldly about the debut album from We Mythical Kings, the brainchild of Peter Philipson (guitars and effects), whose 2014 Peaks solo album (issued under his P.J. Philipson alias) received a glowing review in these pages upon its release, and Raz Ullah (synthesizers and effects). In contrast to the guitar-centric focus of Peaks, Visitations wends farther afield, venturing into a free-wheeling experimental zone where guitar-based reveries rub shoulders with heady tape-styled explorations and synth-smeared collages. Indexed as sixteen short tracks, the album plays without pause as a restless, shape-shifting whole with fleeting moments of serenity alternating with combustible vignettes of abstract expressionistic character.
The production processes that eventuated in the album are worth noting: six days of recording sessions at a remote cottage on the Isle of Mull (off the coast of Scotland) resulted in hours of freeform improvisations that were revisited months later, the duo then concentrating on shaping the raw material into the album's final form. For the record, the group name derives from a 1971 album by Dory Previn called Mythical Kings & Iguanas, and the track titles were taken from J.A. Baker's 1967 book The Peregrine, though neither detail relates in any directly perceptible manner to the particular sound design of the material featured on the recording.The opening tracks capture the general tone of the album: “Shining Silver Blue” inaugurates Visitations with a collage-styled overture assembled from field recordings (someone trudging through tall grasses), electronic devices, guitar treatments, and other metallic noises; a more clearly marked sense of song structure distinguishes “Storming Suddenness of Sea” in the way the duo spreads electric guitar shadings and bulbous synth textures across a simple drum machine base. There are surprising moments, for sure, a case in point the appearance of an old man's warble on “Glenaros,” but as interesting as these micro-detailed settings are, it's Philipson's dextrous guitar work that is the album's strongest selling-point. He's one of those players who's just as comfortable strumming an acoustic (“Fragrance of Neglect”) as he is unleashing shards of raw experimentalism. It's telling that the album's most memorable piece turns out to be the one that's the simplest and most straightforward, namely “The Greater the Beauty, the More Terrible the Death,” which closes the recording with three wonderful, serenading minutes of Philipson's unadorned folk guitar playing.