I’ve been familiar with and have enjoyed the music of Mythos since the late 1990’s, so it was exciting to receive their new release, Journey. Although they have released a number of albums in their 20 year history, its’ been a while since their last one. Mythos combines the considerable talents of Bob D’Eith on piano and keyboards and guitarist Paul Schmidt. Interestingly, they originally joined forces with the specific intention of composing music for TV and film. However, they soon expanded their vision and released their first album, Introspection, as a group called Mythos. The album went on to win a West Coast Music Award and was nominated for a JUNO Award (a Canadian award similar to a Grammy). After that, their career took off and subsequent albums were rewarded with impressive sales, awards, and chart success, including being on the prestigious Billboard Magazine’s New Age chart for eight months.
The sound of Mythos is unique and has been described as: “ethereal, ambient instrumental music focusing on acoustic guitar, piano and vocal melodies. Added to this mix are hypnotic electronic beats, orchestral arrangements and world instrument flavors. Mythos has always had the goal of creating music without borders; creating a blend of sounds from all over the planet.” And they have certainly attained that goal with this new release. The title Journey is well chosen, because from the first few seconds of the opening track, you feel like you are on one. There is an interesting contrast between the up-tempo rhythm that combines Middle Eastern-style drumming and electronic beats, with the more spacious synth sounds, piano, and guitar all flowing together. Adding to the mix is the heavenly wordless vocalizing of Jasmin Parkin, who appears on a number of the tracks. Listening to this song gave me the feeling of being on a fast moving train and looking out the window at a vast landscape unfolding. In addition to the percussion, other instrumental touches hinted at a Middle Eastern influence, and brought to mind the visual imagery of the classic Crosby, Stills, and Nash lyrics about riding on the Marrakesh Express.
The next composition entitled “Spiritus,” incorporates a similar dynamic of a driving contemporary beat, although a bit heavier on the electronics, with a more laid back melodic structure on top of it. One contrast that I found interesting was Paul’s use of a nylon string classical or Spanish-style guitar in the midst of all this swirling electronica. Bob plays an electric piano on this one, rather than acoustic, as on the first track. The song evolves into a nice breakdown in the last third where the rhythm drops out and the song floats for a moment before building back up again into the groove. The sound of electric guitar is also heard on the album, as on the next track, “Escape Velocity,” which also features some unusual sampled sounds adding an exotic air. And speaking of exotic, that description certainly fits the three songs that are named for global destinations. First up is “Tokyo,” that blends a dense electronic soundscape with more indigenous sounds like bamboo flute and Asian stringed instruments. This piece has a much more urban feel than the track called “Nepal,” that is light and airy by comparison, reflecting the elevated atmosphere of the Himalaya’s. The third song named for a location is “Novaya Zemlya,” an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in the north of Russia. So not surprisingly, this track features more of a musical influence that is indicative of this part of the world.
In general, especially in the first half, the songs on Journey have a lot going on in the mix, with many layers of sound creating intricate patterns, so the track appropriately called “Inner Peace,” offered a nice change of pace. On this one, Bob’s solo piano opens the composition and is eventually joined by lush strings filling out the sound. There is an almost semi-classical feel to this piece, and I appreciated hearing Bob outstanding piano work in a more isolated context than the other more sonically complex tracks on the album. Paul also had his moment in the spotlight as well on a lovely short solo piece called “Nocturnal,” and took the opportunity to show his virtuosity on the nylon stringed classical guitar – very impressive. I noticed that overall, some of the music on the second half of Journey, is a bit lighter than the first half, providing a nice balance and showing the considerable range of this talented duo. A good example of their musical interplay is highlighted on a track, not surprisingly called “Duet,” where the piano and guitar intertwine in a more spacious melodic context. The album contains a good deal of stylistic diversity, with one of the most diverse pieces being saved for last. Entitled, “Impressionism,” this unique song is much more orchestral and cinematic, with the sounds of brass and strings creating a composition that would work well as a film soundtrack. Its quite remarkable how Mythos is able to cover such varied musical terrain and do it all so well. While their original intention was to create music for film and TV, the evocative sounds on Journey are quite capable of producing mind’s eye movies, especially while listening with headphones. The surrealistic visionary art that adorns the cover of this recording, as well as on all their albums, only adds to the aura of fantasy and sonic exploration that their music exudes. Mythos has had a long and successful career, and its great to see that creatively they are still at the top of their game, with Journey perhaps being their best release yet.