Domo, Domo: The Cycle of All Things

Proffering heady mostly-instrumental psychedelic jams in what I’m quickly coming to think of as the neo-European tradition, Spanish trio Domo set out on a wandering journey across the seven tracks of their self-titled Radix Records debut. In that the song are mostly named for concepts out of Hindu/Buddhist theology – the one exception is “Eta Carinae,” named for a nebulous star system – one might draw an immediate comparison to My Sleeping Karma, although Domo’s arrangements are simpler and less pointed in terms of structure. The three-piece of guitarist Samuel Riviere, bassist/vocalist Óscar Soler and drummer Paco García inject some vaguely “Eastern” elements into their sound, as the scales of “Asura” show, but mostly staving of a generic feel throughout Domo’s 64 minutes is the interplay between the members of the band. The music feels natural in the recording and spontaneous where it goes, but Domo seem nonetheless aware that they’re making an album and not just jamming out or playing a live show. The shorter, acoustic-led “Pretas,” which comes after the first three extended cuts, speaks to that, as does the 1:59 synth interlude “Eta Carinae” that sets up sprawling closer “Samsara.” These tracks offer a respite from the depths to which Domo plummet (or, alternately, the heights in the atmosphere they ascend) on the more sprawling voyages

“Yamantaka,” which rests between the two breaks (“Pretas” and “Eta Carinae”) affects a more spacious bluesiness. Riviere is in the lead on guitar and until about five and a half minutes in, it seems like he’s just going where his fingers take him until Soler and García pick up the rhythm and lead into a section that alternates between Hendrix and Hawkwind on its way to interstellar oblivion. When the guitar cuts out momentarily, one finds one can breathe and better appreciate Soler’s bass tone, which is subtly fuzzed and warm enough to engage. Earlier on the album, it opened the first track, “Nadi,” but with so much between then and “Yamantaka,” it was easy to lose it in the mix – plus, Riviere is almost an entity unto himself within the band, soloing atop the rhythm section and only occasionally meeting with it – that one tends to follow him and wonder where that groove is coming from. Soler and García both prove worth the extra attention throughout Domo, although the latter does more to keep the pace and keep the material grounded than he does to add flash to the songs or show off with fills or complex beats. The task set upon him is difficult enough, but he does as able a job as anyone could, and when Domo let go and really take off – “Samsara,” for example – it’s because they want to, not because they’re out of control. “Samsara” and “Prana,” the second offering, are the only cuts on Domo to feature Soler’s vocals, which aren’t out of place in the music but aren’t really present enough to anchor it anyway. “Prana” in particular begins with such a morass of noise before García kicks in on drums that even if Domo went full verse/chorus/verse on it after that, it would still be more exploratory than not.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but there is a league of European bands out there right now, and bands from South America as well, specializing in instrumental heavy psychedelia, and ultimately, I’m not sure how much Domo stand out from the pack. The rhythms are loose but never faltering, and Riviere is a more than capable soloist and able to hold the listener’s attention for the most part no matter how far out he goes, but there’s definitely room for growth and for development on the level of the band’s individuality. The course “Prana” takes over the course of its 12 minutes is one of Domo’s most enjoyable, including the surprise of the vocals (by the time I was 10 minutes into the album the first time, I just assumed they weren’t coming), and backed by the chanting of “Asura,” it works even better, and I care less that it’s not really anything new than I do that it’s a cool listen. Riviere would be well-served to go further with the lead tone he uses in the second half of “Asura,” and on the whole, that’s probably where Domo hits its peak. García offers a rare moment of flash in a solo that pans and swirls, and though it’s offset somewhat by the laid back feel in the guitar, the driving closing movement it leads to is easily among the album’s finest stretches.

The back half (though it actually accounts for more than half the total runtime) is set up with “Pretas” and moves smoothly into “Yamantaka,” which continues Domo’s guitar-led ethic and pushes a more atmospheric approach into it. With “Eta Carinae” and “Samsara” still to come, it’s a lot to digest, but taken either in sessions or whole, it’s a decent example of the trio trying something different with their sound and not at all a misstep. The synth/guitar interplay on “Eta Carinae” reminds me of something one might hear from Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtracks, but works nonetheless in transitioning between “Yamantaka” and “Samsara,” which uses about 14 of its total listed 24 minutes for Domo’s longest and most effective build (and just because I haven’t yet dropped the name Colour Haze, there it is) before giving way to silence. Domo aren’t finished, however, as there’s still a hidden track that’s the most directly riff-rocking cut on the whole album, as though the band wanted to sneak in notice somehow that they might, at some future point, just want to get down with some straight-ahead heavy rocking à la Fu Manchu. If that final statement is any indicator, especially in how considerably they wind up blending their jam feel in with the riffing, it’s something they’d be well advised to pursue in the future. It’s a surprise in how active it is, given everything that came before, but Domo feel plenty at home in their sedate stretches as well, and for those who’d like a little cosmic guidance to go along with their psychedelic excursions, this Alicante threesome seem more than willing to provide.

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Radix Records

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