At Least Now We Know How Om Feel about God

Man, Al Cisneros looks totally different with short hair. (Photo by Aaron Farley)I’ve decided not to give it a full review, because it’s been out for a while already and because I paid for it (with my blood, sweat and pseudo-intellectualism), but God is Good, Om‘s first record for Drag City is worth some comment anyway. The digipak came to me in my latest All that is Heavy order, and I’ve been grooving on its moody sensibilities and stoned spirituality ever since. Turns out I was right to look forward to hearing it.

Of course, the big story here is that it’s the first Om record without Chris Hakius on drums. When bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros announced Hakius was out of the band, I scoffed, said there was no way they’d be any good. Mostly because I’m a cynical dick and that’s usually the way things work. As I’ve said several times on this site and elsewhere, Om are better with GrailsEmil Amos behind the kit. I don’t know if it’s his experimental tendencies or just that Hakius had gotten bored with Om‘s breadth, but God is Good surpasses 2007’s Pilgrimage in every way possible.

More than that, it shows Om expanding its horizons. Not necessarily lyrically — Cisneros is sticking to his guns there — but with a tamboura from Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe on 19-minute opener “Thebes,” and later on the much shorter “Cremation Ghat I” (3:11) and “Cremation Ghat II” (4:58), Om‘s sound is undergoing a subtle progression that is well suited to what fans have come to expect from them. God is Good presented Cisneros with a great chance to change things up since so much was already going to be different with 50 percent of the band brand new.

“Meditation is the Practice of Death” (6:51) boasts a flute and solid musical conversation between Cisneros and Amos. More even than the expansive “Thebes,” it’s here the chemistry between the two players can be heard. Doubtless Steve Albini‘s production had something to do with bringing that out, but even he wouldn’t be able to fake that if it wasn’t there in the first place.

The point, since it’s about time to get there, is if you’ve been sitting on your hands and waiting to hear God is Good, it’s worth checking out. I’ve come across complaints that the “Cremation Ghat” tracks are too short, but every Om record since their 2005 debut, Variations on a Theme, has been under 35 minutes, and this is right in there. If people are longing for more, take that as a sign of the general success of the work and don’t deny yourself the chance to hear it.

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