Before I bought Causa Sui’s Live at Freak Valley in 2014, the last live album I’d purchased was Wilco’s Kicking Television : Live In Chicago back in 2005. Before that? I couldn’t tell you(maybe W.A.S.P.’s Live…In the Raw back in middle school.) I was in the throes of a Causa Sui obsession. I hit the Danish psych rock band’s discography, as well as their label El Paraiso Records entire roster like a junkie looking for a fix. Causa Sui were a force to be reckoned with, working up massive Sabbath-ian riffs with more modern touches. Imagine Superunknown somehow being equally influenced by Master of Reality and Aguirre and you’d have an idea of what these four musical geniuses could do. Live at Freak Valley was an immense live record that was a culmination of their albums up to their 2013 release Emporie Tide. I loved the intimacy of the recording, and the raw nature the songs were presented in. It made me think that live records could sound good and real, as opposed to the live albums of the 70s that were all mostly touched up and parts added in the studio afterwards.
From there I hit up live albums from White Hills, Earthless, Mugstar and Damo Suzuki, Of Montreal, Tame Impala and Miles Davis. I’d had some long fading flame for live recordings reignited and fell for live albums that didn’t sound tampered with. Live records that captured a band’s fire to tape.
In 2017 Causa Sui announced a new live album. This time it was a 3LP set with two different sets recorded. The two sets were the 2013 album release show for Euporie Tide, and then the 2016 release show or Return To Sky. Live In Copenhagen shows Causa Sui at their mightiest. A band in full bloom laying it on the line in front of a live audience. It’s a dense and masterful live document showcasing what a tight and precise band Causa Sui are. This is one of the truly great live records. Period.
Where most live records have a sense of distance between the listener and the recording, Live In Copenhagen feels as if you’re in that audience at the Jazzhouse and Dragens Hule. The sound in this live set is impeccable, with the band recording on multitrack with an amazing set of microphones that capture the buzz and brawn of the band. Guitarist Jonas Munk took the mixing and mastering duties seriously and churned out a next-level live document of his band. When you can put on headphones, close your eyes and suddenly be transported to that small, underground club losing your mind to “The Juice” and “Dawn Passage” along with that club crowd, something was done right.
The album opens up with the set at the Jazzhouse for the Return To Sky album. Causa Sui rip into the raucous “Rip Tide” from Summer Sessions Vol 2. Hendrix-like guitar swaths explode as Johan Riedenlow’s sax give the whole proceedings some serious free jazz-meets-psych freakout vibes. Return To Sky’s “The Source” is up next and gets downright dirge-y. A lot of folks are pretty attached to 2013s Euporie Tide, and I don’t blame them. It really does feel like a breakthrough moment for Causa Sui, and a record that opened ears in the US to the Danish quartet. My starting point with Causa Sui was the Summer Sessions, followed by Return To Sky. Return To Sky was the record that sounded like how the band sounds live. There was a buzzing radiance on that record that comes through beautifully on this live record. The band treated these sets like in-studio sessions, not a couple mics set up and hit record.
Dragens Hule Pt. 1 and 2 displays a solid bunch of tunes, including the epics “Eternal Flow”, “El Paraiso”, and “Portixeddu /Tropic Of Capricorn”. There’s even a massive nearly 17 minute cover of Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, complete with Riedenlow doing a damn fine job of filling some immense shoes.
I won’t go over every track here, as I’ve reviewed this album before. The significance here is the absolute brilliance of the experience. Live In Copenhagen ups the game for live recordings. It’s truly a profound and magnificent beast. Munk finds the sweet spot both on the studio albums(seriously, go back and listen to Return To Sky and Vibraciones Doradas and tell me you’ve heard a better produced heavy guitar album in recent years) and here in the live setting. He does this amazing thing of finding a magical spot in the mids. There’s this creamy texture in his guitar, while Jess Karr and Jakob Skott lay down this beautifully heavy low end. Rasmus Rasmussen adds a mixture of Doors-y psych and John Paul Jones mystique to the tracks. The airiness on these tracks live give them an ethereal quality.
As far as live albums go, Causa Sui’s Live In Copenhagen is one of the best put out in a very long time. It shows Causa Sui completely locked in together and letting the vibes of the room and crowd direct them. This is also a high watermark for sonic perfection in live recording. If you’re feeling a little meh about live albums, take a deep dive into over 2 1/2 hours of mind-melting psych with Live In Copenhagen.