Danish quartet Mythic Sunship — guitarists Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt, bassist Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen and drummer Frederik Denning — have released four studio albums to date, all on the El Paraiso label. They’ve also got some early, hard-to-find CD-Rs and cassettes, but don’t worry about those. In 2019, while supporting their most recent studio release, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music, they played three sets at the annual Roadburn festival in the Netherlands. Their new live album Changing Shapes preserves one of them.
On this album, as on Another Shape of Psychedelic Music, the quartet are joined by saxophonist Søren Skov. They play versions of “Elevation” and “Way Ahead” from Another Shape, revamp “Ophidian Rising” from 2016’s Ouroboros, and premiere two new pieces, “Awakening” and “Olympia.”
The music takes a few twists and turns. Some tracks are significantly heavier than others, and sometimes, as on the beginning of “Way Ahead,” they move almost into a realm of Mississippi hill country blues à la Junior Kimbrough, before barreling ahead into the expected clanging roar. Andersen and Thorenfeldt play off each other superbly well, trading solos and harmonizing in a way that’s part Allman Brothers Band, part Monster Magnet. Christensen never strives for the spotlight, but provides a rock solid foundation, and Denning drives the beat with a forceful energy. Skov’s saxophone style is somewhere between Steve Mackay and Peter Brötzmann, rising from bicep-flexing riffs to high-pitched screams, and the band knows when to lock in on a riff and let him fly free.
The two new pieces aren’t radical departures from the band’s model, but they’re perfectly placed within the set. “Awakening” is the first piece, and it lives up to its title; individual instruments shimmer and waft into place like ray of sun coming over the horizon. The drums are a delicate rumble and the saxophone is a low-volume call to prayer, like Pharoah Sanders on “Peace in Essaouira,” from The Trance of Seven Colors, his collaboration with Moroccan musician Maleem Mahmoud Ghania. It gradually rises to a crescendo, though, and by the three-minute mark it’s a massive Earthless-esque roar. Similarly, “Olympia” starts off with an almost pretty guitar figure before turning into an epic jam like a cross between Endless Boogie and Flipper‘s “Sex Bomb.”
As its title indicates, Changing Shapes is the natural next step after Another Shape of Psychedelic Music. Mythic Sunship at their best make gloriously cathartic, transcendent music, and this is a must-hear for fans of epic psychedelic rock jams topped by wailing free jazz sax.