It has been seven years since Om’s last album, the critically acclaimed Advaitic Songs, was released, but the members have proven that patience is a virtue when it comes to their work. The core of the avant-garde rock group is vocalist and bassist, Al Cisneros of Sleep, and drummer, Emil Amos of Holy Sons and Grails. They are currently joined by keyboardist, Tyler Trotter of Bonnie Stillwatter. Between the triumphant return of Sleep and Emil Amos’s prolific solo output in Holy Sons, Om was relegated to short tours and occasional festivals such as Desertfest and Monolith on the Mesa, but in October, fans were surprised by the physical release of the band’s latest live album: the carefully recorded and engineered BBC Radio 1, Om’s highest quality live album to date, and the second with the current lineup.
BBC Radio 1 was released on October 9, 2019 on the Drag City record label. It was recorded in Maida Vale Studios in London in May, and the care and attention of both the band and the studio engineers is apparent on the final product. The instruments are impressively clear and the sound of the room is present on the recording. Unfortunately, the album is short, clocking in at just short of 30 minutes. It’s composed of four tracks: Gethsemane and State of Non-Return from Advaitic Songs, followed by Cremation Ghat and Cremation Ghat II from 2009’s God is Good. The classic songs have slightly changed, evolving over the years as the band has continually toured and improved their compositions and arrangements.
1. Gethsemane 11:19
2. State of Non-Return 8:22
3. Cremation Ghat 3:43
4. Cremation Ghat II 5:37
Cisneros’s bass tones on the album, carefully crafted and honed over decades, are rich and diverse, laying down a heavy bottom line for each song song. On Gethsemane, slow, meditative patterns guide us through the song with deep, clear tones. It’s followed by State of Non-Return’s fuzzy, overcharged sound; perhaps one of the heaviest bass tones ever committed to vinyl. The jazzier feel on the Cremation Ghat suite is matched by a groovy, clean tone that in part II, features some amazing Iommic sounding hooks that have been improvised since the studio release.
Emil Amos’s drumming style is like a cross between meditative stoner rock beats and flowing dub rhythms. As the songs progress, he regularly peppers in phenomenally complex fills, dancing within and around the beat, all while holding down the meter like a human metronome. His drums ring out with incredible clarity, capturing the the sound and breadth of the studio in their resonance. Carefully chosen cymbals, notably the outstanding ride bell and large china, add shimmering brilliance to the atmosphere of the album.
Trotter’s keyboard samples accurately represent the original recorded strings and ethnic instruments. All of his work tastefully fills out the album, adding texture and deepening the complexity of each track. Over it all, the esoteric lyrics are sparsely though thoughtfully placed for full impact. Blending characters, places, and concepts from multiple geographic areas and religions, Cisneros weaves a lyrical tapestry which is both meditatively therapeutic and thought-provoking.
Om has a number of tour dates lined up for 2019. If you get out to see the band on tour, you will be treated to an album quality performance. We saw the band last May at the Taos Brewery for the Monolith on the Mesa festival, and the result was electrifying. Some highlights of the show were Cisneros percussively slapping the bass, Amos in a trance-induced drumming state, Trotter employing a mixture of keyboards and physical instruments, and the whole scene of the desert earthship stage being bathed in dynamic, kaleidoscopic oil lights.
Although it looks like Sleep may be taking a break after releasing The Sciences and extensively touring The U.S. and Europe, this may be acceptable news for fans who have been waiting for a new Om studio album, as the break could allow the members of Om to join once again and unite their powers in song. No matter what the band decides to put out, you can be sure it will be worth the wait. For now, listen to the new live album and support the band by buying the high quality digital download from Bandcamp, or the two-record vinyl release with mixed green and black wax.
Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. This will be the last article of 2019, but we’ll be back and stronger for 2020. Happy holidays, go in peace, and rock on, Sofanauts.
Feb 21 Austin, TX – Mohawk
Feb 22 Houston, TX – Brash Brewing
Feb 23 Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill
Feb 24 Fayetteville, AR – George’s Majestic Lounge
Feb 26 Birmingham, AL – Saturn
Feb 27 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West
Feb 28 Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
Feb 29 Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
Mar 02 Washington, DC – Black Cat
Mar 03 Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
Mar 05 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
Mar 06 Providence, RI – Columbus Theatre
Mar 07 Hamden, CT – Space Ballroom
Mar 08 Pittsburgh, PA – Spirit Lounge
Mar 09 Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
Mar 11 Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall
Mar 13 Chicago, IL – Garfield Park Conservatory
Mar 16 Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
Mar 17 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
Mar 18 Omaha, NE – Slowdown – Main Room
Mar 19 Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck
Mar 21 Albuquerque, NM – Sister Bar
Jun 19 Clisson, France – Rue du Champ Louet