I’ve just done a search on Causa Sui on this website to see what I’ve written about them before. To my amazement I have never reviewed one of their albums. This seems to me to be an amazing omission considering the fact that they are one of the few bands that I will devote whole evenings to listening to. Indeed they are a group that I’ve watched evolving over the last few years when I first picked up on them, probably with the release of ‘Euporie Tide’ in 2013; which is the first in a trilogy of albums (along with last year’s ‘Return To Sky’) of which ‘Vibraciones Doradas’ is the culmination. However, the band have been releasing albums since 2005 with two studio albums pre-dating 2013 and six sessions albums over two series… add in two recorded live sets, including this year’s monster triple set ‘Live in Copenhagen’, and you have quite an oeuvre.
So why do I like Causa Sui so much? Well for one thing I think that they are a pretty unique band, not an easy thing to achieve with so much great music about these days. OK, interesting answer but that doesn’t really take us any further forward, so let’s take another step back and ask what makes the band unique? Actually let’s start with some basics. According to Wikipedia ‘Causa Sui’ (a Latin term meaning “cause of itself”) “denotes something which is generated within itself. This concept was central to the works of Baruch Spinoza, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ernest Becker, where it relates to the purpose that objects can assign to themselves.” Without going into some great philosophical treatise how might this apply to four amazing Danish musicians (Jakob Skøtt, Jonas Munk, Rasmus Rasmussen and Jess Kahr) let’s take another tack. However, the name does hint to their uniqueness I think. Each of these guys has gone off and explored their own musical path between Causa Sui recordings and come back with what they have learned and added it into the mix. This is an exploration both jointly and, perhaps even more important, severally means that each time they get together there has been a shift in ability and knowledge that they are somehow able to almost seamlessly integrate. This, for me. is why they are unique and why their music is a ’cause of itself’.
Other bands do this as well, of course, and these are the ones that remain fresh and interesting over long periods of time; Killing Joke would be a good example of four musicians who explore their very different solo careers and bring their learning back into the band (something that I talk about in my review of their last album ‘Pylon‘). But Skøtt, Munk, Rasmussen and Kahr have very different experiences from Coleman et al…, much of which can be seen on their own imprint El Paraiso Records which, in my opinion, is one of the finest around and is the Causa Sui approach writ large through the music and the amazing art work on each release. And maybe that’s the thing, they do have a basic philosophy and approach which enables them to come together so coherently each time they play and record, something of which ‘Vibraciones Doradas’ is no exception.
This may well be summed up by the band themselves in the press release for this album:
Each of these four epic tracks is a testament to the fact that Causa Sui has carved out a singular niche for themselves, where vintage Sabbath-isms are filtered through a distinctively post-modern ethos…
Causa Sui’s brand of rock conveys everything that’s so great about fuzzed-out heaviness, yet there’s something about it that makes the listening experience far from trivial. In stark contrast to the standards of the stoner/doom scenes Causa Sui manages to be weighty and peaceful at the same – forceful, yet vulnerable, ecstatic yet thoughtful.
Well what can you say about that? Not only does it sum up the band in a nutshell, it also shows that they really know what they are doing so here goes and, spoiler alert, I think that this might be their best release to date.
Opening with ‘The Drop’ the band are straight into practicing what they preach with a totemic drum pattern and away with some heavy riffage. But this is interspersed with some more intricate guitar work, giving that more thoughtful and nuanced edge to their music. In many ways this feels like an overture, settling us in for the rest of the album. But an introduction that many bands would really struggle to match as it ascends into great spirals of intensity before coming down into an ambient yet complex denouement that acts as a signpost for the bands unique approach.
With our ears suitably tuned into the Causa Sui sound/ philosophy the band then strike out with ‘El Fuego’ an eleven minute monster of a track which is almost transcendental in its approach. It begins with some fantastic drumming of the sort that Jaki Liebezeit would be very proud before the band pound off into a heavy yet melodious section that is both thrilling and accomplished. We are then brought down into a bucolic central section where you can really sense the band in full concentration, playing off each other and conducting explorations in their sound that dig deep into their craft… just stunning when you stop everything and listen. Then as the track begins to build it really takes you with it in a way that feels so euphoric it really is beyond explanation… but you know those feelings right? The band are locked in a rising groove and break out exactly at the right time into a stoner riff that takes the track home in a magnificent way. If the above quotation is a distillation of the Causa Sui ethos.. then ‘El Fuego’ is arguably its apogee. Stunning hardly does it justice
After that comes a palate cleansing short interlude of ‘Viborera’ which combines drones and electronica in a way that just takes away the edge of the previous track without bringing the listener out of the trance, and then it is straight in again with ‘Seven Hills’ which blasts off with a brilliant riff that the whole band instantly gel with and develop. This feels more immediate than what has gone before, and within a short period of time I found myself mesmerised in a whole different sort of way. This is much more in your face than side one of the album, and while it keeps that theme over time the band achieves it with a high degree of variance with a quieter middle section that allows the listener to take stock before banging out a final payload of heaviness onto grateful ears.
Which brings us to the title track (‘Vibraciones Doradas’ is Spanish for ‘Gold Vibrations’), which has a kind of dramatic grandeur to it that, while maybe common with much stoner/ doom music, the band develops way beyond the genre. What I mean is that for many bands the sturm and drang is everything, but for Causa Sui it is the building blocks on which they build other musical patterns, again drawing in their varied experiences from across a wide musical spectrum that takes the track into uncharted territory… with the last five minutes or so taking us through a panoply of musical forms in a wholly coherent manner, yet never sounding any less that fresh and improvised.
Causa Sui talk of a postmodern ethos, and the meaning of the bands name, ’cause of itself’ is itself arguably postmodern. This does not mean that the band do not honour their influences, rather they celebrate and explore them… but what they do not do is get bogged down by them. They are no tribute band mindlessly tripping out music as if it is somehow canonical. Neither are they setting one genre above another. Rather on ‘Vibraciones Doradas’ we hear a band at the height of their powers where the individual members bring in their own separate experiences and meld them together in a way that is technically wonderful and emotionally satisfying… I cannot wait to get the vinyl so that I can play this trilogy on a clear analogue medium… that’s going to be an evening to savour.
‘Vibraciones Doradas’ is available to pre-order at El Paradiso records here, it is officially released on November 17th, 2017.