Cynic's Paul Masvidal once somewhat jokingly described his band's music as "Rothko metal": "It's like this endless search for the perfect balance of deconstruction and layered complexity," he told NPR in 2011. Listening to this single from Cynic's first album in seven years, Ascension Codes — which follows drummer Sean Reinert's public split from the band in 2015, then his sudden death in 2020 — it's easy to hear subtle shades of translucent fusion, but also waves of grief.
In "Mythical Serpents," tremolo-picked riffs undulate with ambient synths and Matt Lynch's aerobic drumming, billowing but never blowing up the melody, as if to sit inside and meditate on the music. New member Dave Mackay doesn't replace the inimitable bass playing of Sean Malone (who also died in 2020), but he does reshape and reinforce Cynic's jazz background through keyboards that groove and glide. Exist's Max Phelps is credited with providing "holographic reptilian voices," but the track also welcomes back Masvidal's heavily processed coo. In its alien falsetto, it both softens and amplifies the pain.