Psychedelic Arizonans The Myrrors Reborn on Arena Negra

The Myrrors create psychedelic landscapes in Tucson.
The Myrrors create psychedelic landscapes in Tucson.
Joanne Cuellar

Don't beat yourself up if you missed psychedelic rockers the Myrrors' debut, Burning Circles in the Sky, way back in 2008. The album was released in scant quantities around Phoenix -- a run of about 50 hand-burned CD-Rs exist -- but the young band showed promise, enough so that in 2013, long after leader Nik Rayne had relocated to Tucson to study writing and mostly disbanded the group, Germany's Merlin's Nose and the UK-based imprint Fuzz Club, ended up reissuing the debut.

The interest reignited the Myrrors, leading to Arena Negra, a brand new full-length from the reconstituted band. The record moves light years beyond the Black Angels-indebted indie psych of the debut, exploring elements of free jazz, the minimalism of avant-garde composer La Monte Young, Turkish Sufi ensembles, Balinese gamelan, the jazz fusion of trumpeter Don Cherry, and the progressive rock of Swedish band Träd Gräs och Stenar.

"With the new album we were able to take our time rebuilding the band and focusing on where we wanted to take the music," Rayne says, reflecting on the band's growth. "After six or seven years you aren't the same person."

Indeed, Arena Negra serves as a sort of second debut, with heavy jams like "The Forward Path" blending with tempered desert folk like "Juanito Laguna." It's a fully realized LP by a band fast emerging as one of Arizona's chief psychedelic exports.

In addition to his sound explorations with the Myrrors, the last few years have found Rayne focused on Sky Lantern Records, an experimental label which has released by tapes by Argentine improv collective Ø+yn, Belgian free jazz trio Sheldon Siegel, Japanese psych band Kikagaku Moyo, and Tucson's Ohioan and Young Hunter.

"I'd always wanted to do some sort of label, and I had fallen in love with the current experimental tape scene, so I figured I'd start a cassette-based label and see if any of these bands would be down to take part," Rayne says. "I'm really lucky that so many of them came into the project with a great deal of enthusiasm."

The reborn Myrrors and Sky Lantern all play into Rayne's goal of integrating radical political ideologies into his music. The songwriter cites the philosophies of Bo Anders Persson of Träd, Gräs & Stenar, Pärson Sound, and International Harvester regarding the "stratification of western music," and a desire to break down the barriers between performer and audience.

"In some ways it was analogous to what radical black artists like Milford Graves were doing in the early 1970s, taking the music into the streets and trying to reforge that deep, two-way connection between the musicians and the audience," Rayne says. Live, the band employs use of what another historical inspiration, the avant-garde jazz group the Art Ensemble of Chicago, termed "little instruments." The band distributes small flutes and percussion devices while playing live, inviting the audience to contribute to the sounds, to "color the music."

"Almost anyone can pick up and join in," Rayne says. With the upcoming release of Arena Negra, it seems likely the band's invitation will be eagerly accepted.

Jason P. Woodbury tweets about music, Arizona, and other things on Twitter.

The Myrrors are scheduled to perform Saturday, February 14, at monOrchid Gallery on Roosevelt. Destruction Unit, Cherie Cherie, and others also are scheduled to perform.

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