I think it was sometime in 2013 when I first heard of El Paraiso Records. An old friend I sadly no longer talk to anymore had told me about a band called Causa Sui. A 4-piece psych rock band out of Odense, Denmark that she thought I should give a listen to. I trusted her judgement and proceeded to have my mind completely blown. Big, chunky riffs, psych-heavy keys, and a lead-heavy rhythm section that anchored the whole thing so these Danish lads wouldn’t leave the earth’s atmosphere on a cosmic tear through time and space.
That listen led me down a nearly 10-year trip through psych, heavy synth, ambient, Krautrock, Berlin School, stoner rock, jazz, fusion, and pretty much anything that requires an open mind and a desire for the kind of music that takes one on a journey. Causa Sui are on El Paraiso Reords, which is run by Jonas Munk & Jakob Skøtt, the guitarist and drummer of Causa Sui. These two started the label so they could have a place to release their music free of record label tampering and nit-picking. Their Causa Sui music(which also includes Rasmus Rasmussen on keys and Jess Kahr on bass) could take all the left turns and tonal shifts it wanted; free to explore all the avenues the muse wanted them to take.
Besides Causa Sui, Munk and Skøtt had the freedom to work with other artists they found fascinating and wanted to work with. El Paraiso Records is a hub for forward-thinking music and a community for artists, run by artists. Here’s just a few of the bands that El Paraiso has worked with and released music by: Monarch, Brian Ellis, Brian Grainger, Black Cube Marriage, Papir, Psicomagia, Papir, Shiggajon, Mythic Sunship, Landing, Futuropaco, Nicklas Sørensen, Kanaan and Fra Det Onde.
Running your own label allows you to explore in other projects as well, and exploring is something the guys in Causa Sui do well. Projects related to the members of El Paraiso’s flagship band include Astral TV, Videodrones, Chicago Odense Ensemble, Sun River, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Martin Rude and Jakob Skøtt Duo, as well as solo releases from Jonas Munk and Jakob Skøtt.
For me, El Paraiso Records keeps the spirit of record labels like Verve!, Blue Note, ECM, SST, Sub Pop, 4AD, and early Prestige Records alive and well. Labels that built a community of artists that were both like-minded and yet very individualistic. An aesthetic was created, giving you the feeling that you were going to dig whatver that label was offering your eyes, ears, and brain. El Pariaso Records has done that; from the album art created by Jakob Skøtt(nearly every release has his graphic design) to each release having an “Impetus” number in the top right corner of the album sleeve, to just the overall feel that a library of sound is being created here. There’s something very special about that.
I’ve gotten the chance to interview quite a few artists on El Paraiso Records over the years, as well as Jonas and Jakob. These are guys that are just as much fans as they are prolific creators of art as well. Down-to-earth guys that curate to the music-obsessives like myself. Because they are music-obsessives. They get the value of beautifully-created music; from the packaging to the sounds in those vinyl grooves. The fidelity is impeccable, and there’s always something amazing to look at when you’re zoning out to an El Paraiso Records release.
The record label hit their 10-year anniversary in 2021. There wasn’t much going on in 2021, what with the world still basically locked down due to the pandemic. So that landmark year for El Paraiso Records passed us all by. So this year I wanted to commemorate a record label that has meant a great deal to me(as well as many others around the world) by covering some of my favorite El Paraiso Records releases over the last
10 11 years.
Welcome to El Paraiso Records week on Complex Distractions.
Euporie Tide may have been the first El Paraiso release I’d heard, by Psicomagia’s self-titled was the first I bought. The psych/fusion/prog 4-piece casts LSD spells with a sound that is quite unlike anything I’ve heard before or since. The band consists of Brian Ellis on saxophone, bassist Trevor Mast, drummer Paul Marrone, poet Bernardo Nunez as well as organs and keys from Tyler Daughn. Everyone in this band are deep into the southern California psych rock scene, coming from bands like Astra, Joy, and Radio Moscow.
The music is unlike anything I’d heard. Dark, propulsive, with heavy fusion vibes, the saxophone does what a fuzzed-out guitar would do normally. Add in the groove-heavy rhythm section, acid-burnt keys, and the spoken word of poet Bernardo Nunez, and you’ve got what sounds like a mixture of free form music seance and heady voodoo ceremony. Mind-blowing stuff.
Papir : Stundum(2011)
Three-piece powerhouse Papir, which consists of Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen on drums, Nicklas Sørensen on guitar, and Christian Becher Clausen on bass, always churn out mind-blowing journeys on album. They tow the line between psych, post-rock, prog, and even touches of jazz in their ease of flow. 2011’s Stundum was a master stroke, bringing together the Copenhagen trio’s best qualities while still feeling as if they were learning and growing as the album carried on. From fuzzed-out bluster to shimmering ambient beauty, Stundum stands even today as one of the best instrumental rock albums I’ve ever heard. A double LP of the highest order.
It’s the kind of album you slink into a bean bag chair in the partially finished basement of your parent’s Midwest ranch and just soak up those Copenhagen vibes, man. This is the biggest sounding trio I’ve ever heard, and their ease of moving from total psych rock annihilation to almost dream pop excellence is unparalleled. They’ve got the calm, the storm, and everything in-between, and Stundum is an all-timer.
Mythic Sunship : Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
So imagine A Love Supreme, but if Coltrane had recorded it in 1967 with either Blue Cheer or Atomic Rooster as his backing band. That’s the kind of heady trip you take on Mythic Sunship’s Another Shape of Psychedelic Music. It’s a double album that locks into both Coltrane’s spiritual awakening and hard bop delivery, but with a twist by adding a powerhouse, chugging rock band as the backbone. Rasmus Christensen on bass, Fredrick Denning on drums, Emil Thorenfeldt on guitar and Kasper Anderson on guitar make up the psych/doom Danish quartet, and on this epic jazz/psych sonic exploration from 2018 you get something quite unique.
Søren Lyhne Skov’s saxophone swirls and smears sound like paint to a canvas while the core of Mythic Sunship churn a sonic storm through 6 epic works that envision Black Sabbath or Electric Wizard tearing a hole in the space/time continuum with the help of some serious hard bop magic. Heady and heavy.
This is the end of part one. Tune in tomorrow for part two where I cover a Norwegian prog/psych trio, some seriously groovy Italian psych, and some avante/jazz.