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Album Reviews : Om – Advaitic Songs

By on September 27, 2012

Om - Advaitic SongsOm have long been treated with utmost reverence in stoner and doom circles. Perhaps it’s just a function of the legend of Sleep – of which Om‘s members once comprised two-thirds.

Personally, I don’t submit to the same idealisation. For me, listening to Om has been a frustrating, and often unremarkable experience. The constant respect they are afforded by my fellow musicians and critics has led me to try on multiple occasions to find something notable about Variation on a Theme, Conference of the Birds and Pilgrimage – but, to no avail.

This changed with 2009’s God Is Good. Something finally clicked. Perhaps it was the expansion of Om‘s sound beyond the minimalist/primitive drum-and-bass-and-vocal structure. Perhaps Om‘s approach to music altered when Grails‘ Emil Amos took over percussion duties from Chris Hakius; or with the inclusion of Robert A.A. Lowe of Lichens. Perhaps Steve Albini’s production had a little something to do with it.

Whatever the reason, from that point on Om began to interest me. God Is Good is far from a perfect album, but it shows the band developing into far more interesting territory, and exploring the enormous potential that lies in their style and influence. With tracks like “Cremation Ghat Part 2”, I felt like the duo were on the cusp of something truly great.

When Advaitic Songs was released earlier this year, I had high hopes that Om would finally reach the climax of brilliance I’d been waiting for.

It certainly seems that Advaitic Songs is the bands strongest, and most mature release to date. They’ve continued to expand their layered instrumentation, dedicating real time to carefully crafting compositions rather than indulging in directionless jamming.

The attention to detail in sonic texture is impressive, and I have no reservations in saying that on Advaitic Songs there are moments of true, transcendent beauty.

But Om have not shaken their old sound off completely. I still cringe when we’re treated to the slime-and-eggshells of Al Cisneros lazily intoning mystical gibberish over a signature distorted bassline. Thankfully, I only get this feeling twice on the album – in the opening of “State of Non Return”, and the mid period of “Gethsemane”. His vocals appear elsewhere, but when they do they’re more tasteful and less grating.

With their fifth studio album, Om have finally earned the grand verbiage other critics have long draped over them. Advaitic Songs is transcendent, meditative, and yet another high water mark for music in 2012. Check it out.


Band: Om
Album: Advaitic Songs
Year: 2012
Genre: Psychedelic / ambient / avant-garde
Label: Drag City
Origin: California, USA

Track list:
1. Addis
2. State Of Non-Return
3. Gethsemane
4. Sinai
5. Haqq al-Yaqin


In his spare time, Lachlan melts cephalopods and sorts raw numbers. He runs Art As Catharsis, plays guitar in Serious Beak, Adrift for Days and Battle Pope and writes philosophy at Writing As Catharsis. Follow him on tumblr or Twitter.