Band: The Mighty Orchid King | Album:Mycelium Music Volume I: “Pinedemonium Awakes” | Genre: Progressive rock, Folk rock, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2022
From: Saint Albans, UK | Label: Independent
For fans of: Yes, Phideaux, The Beatles, King Gizzard
I’ve run across a lot of quirky genre descriptions on Bandcamp. Mellow Beast bill themselves as “wizard rock;” Louison’s latest album was described as “cyberprog;” and That 1 Guy has called his music “experimental ‘earthshaking future funk’ from the future maybe.” Despite their oddness, I could vaguely imagine what those might sound like. The UK-based quintet The Mighty Orchid King,on the other hand, dubs their music “mushroom-prog.”
Reading the phrase “mushroom-prog,” my mind immediately went to psilocybin and psychedelics–a not-unreasonable leap, if you ask me. However, reading the band’s description of this album, they intended that phrase much more literally. This album tells the story of a mushroom king and the spirits of the dead things he has consumed. It’s quite a clever concept which explicitly draws inspiration from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and carries a strong environmentalist message.
The band says they aimed to create “an entangled musical ecology,” and Mycelium Music Volume I is a veritable clonal colony of amazing music. The album has an impressive degree of sonic cohesion and continuity, and the individual songs flow together in brilliant, creative ways.
This album covers a lot of territory. Despite being only 45 minutes long, there are 21 individual songs (only six of which top three minutes), though the album feels like one massive, intertwined piece. Mycelium Music begins on a folky little prologue where the vocal harmonies steal the show. Flowing immediately out of this brief introduction is “Return to Normal”. While continuing the guitar line of the prologue, additional string instruments and some weird keyboard effects manifest. The rhythms become wonkier and jazzier near this song’s end before returning to its original theme.
The five-and-a-half minute “Bail Me Out” comes next, and it’s this album’s longest individual piece. Mournful cellos and electric piano open this cut before turning into a buzzing, semi-electronic march. As this piece progresses, the backbone becomes oddly morose and dancey. The pulse of this song is infectious despite a palpable sense of desperation.
“The Ancient Bliss” has a peppier feel to it than its predecessor. Folk flavors are stronger here, and big walls of fuzzed-out guitar contrast wonderfully against this song’s more delicate elements. “Two Trees Tangled Together” bursts seamlessly out with blasts of brass and wah-wahed guitar. I’m hardly an expert on music from Latin America, but there is some sort of Latin flavor smoothly integrated into this track.
Next comes a trio of short songs. “Wild and Running Free” has a relaxed, wide-open atmosphere; and “I Found My Mycelium Man” swells from a dreamy opening to an energetic segue into “Anastomosis”. Latin percussion, distorted vocals, and a groovy melody make this one of the strongest individual sections on the album.
“Symbiomedome” has a powerful, stoner-y opening riff paired with some marvelous, Beatles-esque vocal harmonies. This song barrels forward with purpose, and the expansive, swirling instrumentation lends a sense of mystical wonder.
“Noble Battles” continues with some ideas from “Symbiomedome”, albeit with a wonkier rhythm and a greater sense of urgency. Strong Canterbury flavors are evident in “The Bowels of Symondshyde”.
“Bold Reynard the Fox Speaks” acts as some breathing space, though there is still a sense of tension here, and “He Is Interrupted (Hallucinations?)” has an even lighter, mellower feel to it. “Bloodlust” continues with some melodic ideas from the preceding cuts, but there’s a bluesy nastiness to this cut which fits the title and subject matter well.
The final song to top three minutes on Mycelium Music is “The Magic Man’s Castle”. The guitars on this cut are jagged and irregular, channeling classic art-punk acts. In its second half, the jerky verses and melodic chorus bleed together into a woozy, disorienting melange.
Those punk and post-punk influences continue on “Orchid Kingdoms”. Folky acoustic passages contrast against strange, Cardiacs-inspired riffs. “Delivered to You by the Swine” vacillates between dissonant aggression, folk melodies, and strange doom infusions.
A triumphant, defiant guitar melody kicks off “Underground (The Elms Will Rise Again!)”, and the melody is strongly reminiscent of Ty Segall’s work. The instrumental “Beating the Bounds” is a driving piece that does an excellent job of knowing when to dial things back and when to become more intense, and “Rule by the Best” once again brings back some of those art-punk vibes.
This sprawling record ends on “A Great Green Trespass”. It’s one of the most expressly psychedelic tracks on the album with a lazy, ascending guitar riff repeating under group vocals. Lyrically, too, this piece is setting up the transition to the eventual Volume II of Mycelium Music.
Mycelium Music Volume I is an incredible album. From the first time I heard it, it absolutely knocked my socks off. The blend of prog, folk, and psych is carried out masterfully, and the gapless nature of this album makes it feel like the entire experience flies by. I’m very excited to see how this band spreads their spores in the future.