Om’s material on LP five is more glorious and all-consuming than ever before.
Alex Deller 2012
When legendary stoners Sleep were put to bed back in 1998, the three members would go on to chart very different trajectories. Matt Pike embraced his grizzled metal roots with the marvellously heavy High on Fire while rhythm section Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius took what might be considered a loftier path by exploring Sleep's deeply meditative aspects with experimental outfit Om.
This, the band’s fifth album and second with Grails’ Emil Amos behind the drumkit, is Om’s fullest and most ambitious recording yet, the band having attracted guest musicians and sonic embellishments in much the same way a roaming prophet might gather wide-eyed followers.
While 2009’s God Is Good made use of cello, flute and tambura, these were generally used as subtle markers. With Advaitic Songs, however, such adornments have become an integral part of the album’s sound. Indeed, worldly opener Addis shares little with the band’s earliest incarnation bar its spirit, the female vocals, piano motifs and cello twining together to form a blissful state somewhere between a high-budget Eastern documentary and Coil’s Ostia (The Death of Pasolini).
It’s not until State of Non-Return that Cisneros’ mantra-like incantations and legendary writhing basslines make appearances, and by that time they come almost as a rude incursion, lending the track a turbulent air that initially seems incongruous with the mesmerising calm that led you there. With a few more listens, however, their presence makes perfect sense, seeming as natural as the vast expanses conjured by Sinai or the long desert march and immersive chants of Haqq-al Yaqin.
The results are strange, hypnotic and utterly transcendental, capable of being linked spiritually – if not stylistically – with other fringe-dwelling artists like Earth, Arbouretum and Daniel Higgs. Lyrical themes are so oblique and obtuse as to be largely impenetrable – exactly what Cisneros is on about is, frankly, anyone’s guess.
But it should be said that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, Om’s teachings have always been less about finding a goal than the overwhelming richness of the journey, and, with Advaitic Songs that journey is more glorious and all-consuming than ever before.