Friday Full-Length: My Sleeping Karma, My Sleeping Karma

 

If you asked the band, I bet Germany’s My Sleeping Karma would probably think of their 2006 self-titled debut as primitive in some way, at least compared to what’s come after, the way the arrangements stay relatively straightforward and the spiritual themes that would take hold across subsequent releases only beginning to be explored. Maybe they’d be right in that context, but the six-tracker is also the foundation for all that later growth and exploration. More over, it is an album of detail. Listen to the way the drums complement the emphasis on guitar line in “InTENsion” or the counterpoint to the guitar lines that the bass brings in “Glow 11.” The wisp of effects backing the central guitar line in the quiet stretches of second cut “23 Enigma.” The synth line pushing alongside the space rock drive of “Drannel Xu Ilop” and the way eight-minute closer “Eightfold Path” so gracefully unfolds its rolling progression across its early going. Even just the warmth of its tones. Guitar and bass, granted, but how often do you hear drums that sound warm? Recorded by drummer Steffen Weigand, who shared a prior tenure in underrated rockers The Great Escape with bassist Matte Vandeven — that band’s last album, Nothing Happens Without a Dream, came out on Nasoni in 2005 — My Sleeping Karma‘s My Sleeping Karma arrived through Elektrohasch Schallplatten and delivered an aural smoothness the likes of which heavy rock hadn’t heard before. Sure, Weigand, Vandeven, guitarist Seppi and keyboardist Norman Mehren drew form a well of influences in progressive, heavy and psychedelic rock, but their intent toward individuality, even at this moment of outset, is plain to hear in the tracks of their self-titled. And also in everything that’s come since.

I’d dug The Great Escape, played tracks from 2003’s Escape from Reality on college radio, etc., but the arrival of My Sleeping Karma was something on its own wavelength. At the time, much of my frame for heavy psychedelia was based around the also-Germany-based Colour Haze, and fair enough since they were among the principal European forebears of the style, but My Sleeping Karma‘s My Sleeping Karma emphasized how much more there was to say with heavy psych, how it could go to different places and occupy more than one mindset. There was something spiritual about it from the start. In the crucial unfurling of the 9:21 opener and longest track (immediate points) “InTENsion” (9:21), the four-piece from my sleeping karma self titledAschaffenburg created an immersion of the listener that went beyond “setting the tone” in the spirit of so many opening tracks and moved into a genuine sense of creating a mood, finding a headspace and bringing the listener to it. It was heavy in presence and weighted in tone, but peaceful even in its later, driving reaches, as its intended tension came to a head. And from the resonant keyboard lines of “23 Enigma” to the more active jump and shove of “Hymn 72,” My Sleeping Karma worked its way outward from the start, setting up the deep dive that its final three tracks, “Glow 11,” “Drannel Xu Ilop” and “Eightfold Path,” would represent on a clearly purposeful and clearly hypnotic and clearly switched on side B.

The effect of pairing “Glow 11” and “Drannel Xu Ilop” in particular isn’t to be understated. Like having “23 Enigma” and “Hymn 72” back-to-back just at the end of side A, having “Glow 11” into “Drannel Xu Ilop” lead into side B provides the proverbial “meat” of the album in terms of atmosphere — so yes, the meat you can’t see or touch, but meat nonetheless; don’t you touch that intangible meat! — and drawing the listener deeper into the record’s sphere. It’s not just that the songs are both seven-plus minutes long, or remarkably mellow, or hyper-repetitive. In fact they’re none of those things, but together they make up 15 minutes of a 44-minute LP and go a long way toward creating the saga of My Sleeping Karma‘s creative breadth. Their lushness isn’t overbearing — they’re never a wash of tone or effects or crash — but the movement is so fluid within and between them that one almost can’t help but be caught up in their sweep, and even though the payoff of “Drannel Xu Ilop” hearkens back to an earlier riff to make its impact, that impact is only more engaging for the subconscious familiarity of its figure. And as a bookend with “InTENsion,” “Eightfold Path” finishes with a reinforcement not only of the outward cast of My Sleeping Karma as a whole, but of the progressive future that was at the time ahead of the band. Held together by the bassline, a slower, drifting movement brings the track to its finish, not really soft, but subtle in its groove, with just bursts of intensity in the guitar before the last airy exhale comes forward, closing on a suitably meditative note.

My Sleeping Karma would go on to release two more albums through Elektrohasch in 2008’s Satya (review here; discussed here) and 2010’s Tri (review here) before signing to Napalm Records‘ short-lived heavy rock imprint Spinning Goblin Productions that was soon enough folded into Napalm proper for 2012’s Soma (review here), 2015’s Moksha (review here) and the 2017 live album, Mela Ananda — Live (review here). They put in a fair amount of road time in 2018, playing festivals like Desertfest Belgium and Freak Valley, and just last month they put in an appearance at SonicBlast Moledo ahead of touring in November with Stoned Jesus on an Obelisk-presented run (info here) called ‘Sonic Ride’ that has Somali Yacht Club opening the shows. No way that’s not going to be a good time.

I haven’t heard plans about a new album, but even if something’s in the works, it presumably wouldn’t be out until 2019 at this point, which would  mean a five-year stretch between studio My Sleeping Karma offerings, which is by far the longest they’ve ever had. For all I know they’ve got something mastered and there’s a press release in my email right now about it, though. Hang on, I’ll check… nope. Well, I’ll check again in five minutes and see if there’s anything then. Will keep you posted.

In the meantime, as always, I hope you enjoy the self-titled. It had been a while since I last dug into it, and while their style may have become more complex with the 13 years since, there’s no question that My Sleeping Karma knew they wanted their music to be a soulful, expressive experience right from the start. And so it was.

Thanks for reading.

Got that burnout working pretty hard on me this week. All levels. I’ve been reminding myself it’s the start of The Patient Mrs.’ semester. And she’s starting a new job. And I’m probably still tired from the move. And we have a toddler. And no dishwasher. The list goes on. But I also still have projects like Lowrider PostWax liner notes (this weekend is it; tomorrow they’re getting done), Acrimony liner notes (waiting on interviews back, so there’s still some time there), a piece on the art at Høstsabbat I said I’d put together and a press release for a certain New England band of marked impact hanging over my head, and all that stuff is feeling pretty overwhelming, and not in that good Quarterly Review kind of way. Like in the what-the-hell-am-I-doing-this-for kind of way.

Example: it’s just about 6AM. I’ve been writing for the last hour and a half and I’m falling asleep at the keyboard. The Pecan will be up any minute now. What the hell am I doing this for?

Whatever.

Next week? Fucking packed. Stream of the interview with Lori from Acid King goes up I think on Friday?, but don’t quote me on that. Premieres slated for Cavern, and Iron & Stone, and reviews of Ecstatic Vision, High Fighter, Mars Red Sky and the Ode to Doom show that’s happening next Wednesday in Manhattan. It’ll be my first Ode after co-presenting the series for three years. I’m already a little nervous to go.

I also this week had to take my new lens in for repair and that became a whole thing with Canon. Apparently they sent my warranty to an old email that doesn’t exist anymore, so I never activated it — which means nothing, by the way; the idea of “activating” a warranty by signing up for their system and giving them all the information about what you have and what you do with it? yeah, it’s a data mine and nothing more — and the first time I went to the office it was like I was coming from another planet. Took me all of Tuesday to sort out what had happened to that email, then I got it and had to wait for the warranty confirmation for a day and blah blah blah but I took the lens back in yesterday to the place and it was fine. Hopefully I’ll have it in time for the show next Wednesday, but if not, I’ll slum it with the just-one lens I always used until a couple weeks ago when I bought the new one. Could be worse.

Today is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. You saw the playlist. It’s a good ‘un, and I kind of get sentimental in the last voice-break, so that’s fun too. Listen at http://gimmeradio.com.

Alright. The baby-monitor shows the boy is still down, so I’m going to take a couple minutes, finish the rest of this coffee and read and probably fall asleep on the couch.

I wish you a great and safe weekend. Have fun doing what you do.

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4 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: My Sleeping Karma, My Sleeping Karma

  1. Mark says:

    Is that new Acrimony or notes on a re-release?

  2. DieselJam says:

    They actually didn’t appear at Sonic Blast, that was a huge bummer.
    They posted something on facebook about one of them getting seriously ill and therefor having to cancel the festival appearences.

    I attended their hometown show with Monkey3 and Wucan this april and there they played a new song and promised that a new album would be coming soon.

    I hope that the MSK / Stoned Jesus / Somali Yacht Club Tour will still happen…

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