Although I’ll always have a soft spot for My Sleeping Karma because their second album, Satya, was the first full-length I reviewed specifically for The Obelisk, it’s the German four-piece’s instrumental heavy psychedelia that endears them most of all. As Elektrohasch Schallplatten releases their third album, Tri, it’s becoming clear just how much they embody the mission of the label. Not only are they all about the music, but like the best of Elektrohasch’s acts (Colour Haze, Hypnos 69), they manage to subdue even at their most active – I’ll stop short of saying aggressive, because there really isn’t anything aggressive about what they do – moments. What was true on their My Sleeping Karma debut and on Satya remains true on Tri: My Sleeping Karma play hypnotic riff rock with psychedelic undertones, and as each album turns to the next, they’re becoming among the best at what they do.
With Satya, the theme (brought out in the song titles and artwork) was Tibetan Buddhism, and while they still have a “Free Tibet” logo stamped on the inside of the Tri digipak, the band seems to have moved on to Hinduism, as each of the tracks on Tri is named for a Hindu god, starting with “Brahama,” who created human beings, to “Sarasvati,” a goddess in both Hinduism and Buddhism, who protects them. In between, the band makes note of several other gods, “Vishnu” and “Shiva” among them, while also touching on Hindu/Buddhist concepts of inaction in “Tamas” and purity “Sattva.” Where they lie spiritually I honestly couldn’t say, but some of the songs have the feel of chants, as though without actually using words, they’re saying “Hare Brahama” through music, to get the god’s attention and favor. At least that’s how I like to think about it. You may have your own interpretation.
The often-effected guitar of Seppi leads the way for most of the songs on Tri, with bassist Matte backing in tones smooth and engaging and drummer Steffen grounding the songs when they need it, making the most of ghost-note snare hits and cymbals well placed in the mix. The focus with My Sleeping Karma isn’t to be heavy. They’re not trying to blow anyone’s ears out, instead seeming geared toward a kind of spiritual exploration through music. It doesn’t feel like happenstance these tracks are named the way they are, rather that the concept behind My Sleeping Karma is reaching another stage of its realization, keyboardist Norman fleshing out the songs along the way. They make sonic references along the way in a range of styles and subgenres, notably touching on European tour partner Brant Bjork with the sweetly-toned “Shiva” and the progression of Neurosis’ “Crawl Back In” on “Takshmi.” These tracks and the rest of Tri fully maintain a character of their own, however, with the sound of the bass and guitar being a big part of what separates My Sleeping Karma from the pack.
They border on the progressive, sonically, but My Sleeping Karma’s heads are occupying a different space entirely, interested in neither putting on a clinic nor attending one. Rather, with a record like Tri, the band is creating the mood and atmosphere to best complement their own journey. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the vibe on this record is that its own making is the point; the songs not only justify, but completely explain themselves and their being. Seppi, Matte, Steffen and Norman sound natural and plotted out at the same time, growing songs that are rich and complex without being overly technical, finding just the right balance so that they’re not too much in one direction or the other. The harmony, it seems, comes in multiple forms on Tri, both spiritually and musically. For anyone who doesn’t get down with spirituality in their music, don’t pay attention to the titles or the art and you should be fine, as I imagine these tracks to be adaptable to whatever other reading you might want to give them. For me, it seems as though My Sleeping Karma has undergone tremendous growth over the course of their three albums, and that it can’t be too long now before they’re recognized as one of the finest bands crafting heavy psychedelia today.
Tags: Elektrohasch, Germany, My Sleeping Karma