Causa Sui ‘Szabodelico’ 2LP/CD (El Paraiso) 4/5

Santa Claus delivered a copy of Gabor Szabo’s 1968 classic Dreams to me last month and it hasn’t come off my playlist since then; this week Causa Sui’s 2020 release Szabodelico appeared on the radar so I really wanted to know how the band would approach this homage to his legacy.

They’ve created a double LP of original music and felt indebted enough to the Hungarian guitarist to name check him on the album’s title and on some of the song titles too. Szabodelico is the twelfth album to be released by this prolific Danish quartet since 2005. Their output consists of studio albums, two live recordings and possibly most interestingly several albums of extended jam sessions. Stylistically they’ve ranged from forms of psych and acid rock to more free form music they appealingly describe as ‘not goal orientated’ featuring on their Pewt’r series of recordings. The band explain they ‘set out to play music we like ourselves without being true to one genre’. They grew up with the post-rock scene of the 90s, aiming for something new and non-generic while simultaneously looking back to the 60s and 70s. As you might expect from this approach their influences range far and wide: Can, Miles Davis, Popul Vuh, Allman Brothers and Tame Impala to name a few.

Causa Sui is led by Jonas Munk (guitar and production) with Jess Kahr (bass) Rasmus Rasmussen (keyboards) and Jakob Skøtt (drums). El Paraiso is their own label which they modestly describe as ‘like a hobby’. By their own account, they don’t do a lot of touring but have played plenty of festivals.

The sounds on the album range from light and impressionistic to more subdued and introspective; the levels of intensity shift with these moods. A brief introductory passage ‘Echoes of Light’ sets the album in motion before running straight into ‘Gabor’s Path’ that path being the Szabo inflected guitar part, the psychedelic sound of the 60s looms large, complemented by an evocative organ and more contemporary sounding electronic details.

The band dig deeper on ‘Sole Elettrico’ and turn up the level of emotional intensity giving us a highly involved multi-layered and expressive palette. This isn’t always sustained through the whole album, some of the tracks opting for an atmospheric concept over any deep sense of soul personality. ‘Honeydew’ for example is pleasantly reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s early 70s sound without taking these atmospherics to a particular destination.

One track which spoke to me more directly, ‘Premonitions’ channels their inner Popul Vuh and offers a believable sense of entrancement. In places it reminded me of the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s film Nosferatu the Vampyre, it conjured the image of Klaus Kinski as the vampire so vividly that for a moment I got sidetracked and went off to listen to it. Perhaps it’s the focused simplicity of ‘Premonitions’ that gives it an otherworldly quality.

The album closes with what I thought was one of the strongest tunes, the rather beautiful ‘Merging Waters’. There’s a quieter subtlety to this, more breathing space and some satisfying percussive landscapes and rhythmic interest which merge with layered organ phrases and electronics, there’s a flavour of the East as it fades out with the distant sound of cowbells.

The spirit of Szabo echoes through the album to varying degrees in both drifting and soaring passages, his fingerprints are apparent in many places. It’s wonderful to hear the individuality of the Hungarian guitarist’s influence rippling through these contemporary sounds.

James Read

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