Friday Full-Length: Om, Conference of the Birds

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 10th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Submitted perhaps a tad early for consideration as classic: The second full-length from Om, Conference of the Birds. Comprised of two extended pieces, “At Giza” (15:56) and “Flight of the Eagle” (17:27), the 33-minute LP was first issued in 2006 through Holy Mountain, which has kept it largely in-print since no doubt because of its continued resonance.

Al Cisnernos and Chris Hakius had debuted the year prior with Variations on a Theme (discussed here), which although it was just two years after the posthumous release of Dopesmoker by their prior outfit, Sleep, it felt both akin and a world removed from that single-song stoner metal epic. Om dug into expanse, to be sure, but effectively turned the formula on its head by leaving the room in the mix a guitar might otherwise occupy open and relying on bass and drums alone. That such a thing became so common in the years following is in no small part owed to Cisneros and Hakius proving it could be done.

But where Variations on a Theme was rawer in presentation and rendered somewhat transitional in hindsight compared to the increasingly complex path Om would take on subsequent offerings, Conference of the Birds, and particularly the bulk of “At Giza” as it builds to its apex across the first 13 minutes, demonstrated a vision of ‘heavy’ that didn’t need to be loud to make its point. Hypnotic like psych and maybe informed a bit by Earth‘s steady droning, but clear in tone, that setting forth across the quiet verses of “At Giza,” with Hakius soft tom and cymbal hits lending movement under a signature bassline, and Cisneros building on the vocal approach of the first album, but confident enough in it the next time around to sing over a quiet part and use his voice as an instrument along with the bass and drums.

Cisneros subtly holds out the last line of the last of the nine verses in “At Giza” — one might divide it into movements of the first three and the next six with the transition between them marked by the cymbal wash and change of bass and vocal pattern at four minutes in — so that from, “The rite of fall sealed/Cremation now reclaims/Cows toward the sun and sheds the object form,” the last two words almost sound like they have an extra syllable, but their echo is swallowed as the louder progression begins at 13:10. Hakius meets the change with fluidity as he invariably would. The kick drum hits harder and the taps of snare are more pointed in the rhythm and fills.

It’s arguable that “At Giza” alone, particularly in its chant-like early going, opaque spiritual theme and purposefully repetitive construction, is where “meditative doom” was born, and the fact that its louder and outright dirtier in tone final section feels so utterly cleansing when you’re listening to it feels like a vision being realized for what Om could be. With the recording helmed by Billy Anderson (with om conference of the birdsadditional engineering from Kevin Lemon and the band as co-producer), who also tracked Variations on a Theme and Sleep‘s genre landmarks, Conference of the Birds was where Cisneros and Hakius began the process of distinguishing Om as something separate from their former band. Still the same people, still some similarities of purpose, but in “At Giza” and the tantric roll of “Flight of the Eagle” as it takes up the distorted push that capped the song before, Om stood apart in intention and sound alike. They became their own thing, in other words, and their doing so would prove influential in its own right.

One might liken the flow of “Flight of the Eagle,” its more outward volume and distortion — still clearer in the production, mind you — as closer to where Om had been the year prior, but in its reaches as well one finds Cisneros more comfortable vocally, and the patience with which the track oozes through its malleable-in-tempo course works in complement to “At Giza”‘s quieter contemplations while feeling like a linear extrapolation from its ending. As “At Giza” was itself a build, “Flight of the Eagle” answers the ethereal serenity with earthier lumber while residing very much in the same mood so central to Conference of the Birds in the first place. Om were still exploring, still becoming, growing, but while they worked on a quick turnaround in terms of planetary orbits from the preceding LP, they had also begun to figure out who they were going to be, what they wanted their music to say, and how.

Whether you listen in the framing of what Hakius and Cisneros had done before or how Om developed after — they worked with producer Steve Albini (R.I.P. May 7, 2024) on their next two albums; 2007’s Pilgrimage was their third LP and first through Southern Lord, as well as Hakius‘ final release with the band before Emil Amos (Grails, Holy Sons, etc.) took up the drummer position; multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe would make his first multi-instrumental contributions to 2009’s God is Good (review here) and go on to become a fully-fledged third touring member — Conference of the Birds is a step along the way, but a crucial one.

Loud or quiet, their music became the mantra to which their moniker seemed to allude, and to those who already knew the duo from their work in Sleep, “At Giza” and “Flight of the Birds” demonstrated that those whose neurology let them find comfort in aural heft and a place for themselves within grooving largesse could do the same in a calmer space. And as heavy or loud as Conference of the Birds gets, the striving for peace in “At Giza,” whatever that means to a given listener, feeds into the impression of “Flight of the Birds” gorgeously enough that the two are best experienced side-by-side.

Not a year goes by without somebody mentioning a long-awaited follow-up to Om‘s 2012 LP, the singularly glorious Advaitic Songs (review here), among their most-anticipated releases. As the band themselves are a reminder we live in a universe of infinite possibilities, I won’t say such a thing would never happen — Cisneros spent a decent portion of the 2010s back in Sleep, but Om still play as the three-piece of CisnerosAmos and guitarist/keyboardist Tyler Trotter; they released the live album BBC Radio 1 (review here) in 2019 — but it certainly hasn’t yet. I wish I had more to say about it than “maybe, maybe-not, hope so,” but I don’t.

The 18 years since it came out has only underscored how much Om accomplished in Conference of the Birds and it still carries an impact that is soulful very much in its own way. As always, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

I didn’t write an obituary for Steve Albini and I probably won’t. I was never really into Shellac, Big Black or the sundry other bands he did whose names have been largely swept under Gen-X’s “it was okay to say rascist shit before 1998” rug, and while I value the work resulting from his time producing records for the likes of Om, Neurosis, High on Fire, Stinking Lizaveta, Weedeater, Nirvana, and so on, as well as his persistent outspokenness about corporate infringement on art, I don’t feel qualified to comment.

Further, having done a Friday Full-Length just last week already looking through a memorial lens, the solace of Conference of the Birds made sense to me more than diving into either God is Good or Pilgrimage, which are probably the two Om records I least reach for. I guess I’m not trying to perform grief, in other words, and if you want to take that as an ethic of honesty influenced by Albini himself, a kind of roundabout tribute, fine. I understand a lot of people took it hard and I respect that enough not to pretend I’m so emotionally affected.

This weekend is Mother’s Day. I know that too can be emotionally loaded for some. I am fortunate to have my mother in my life — her first knee replacement is booked for May 22; she needs it — and fortunate to have my wife as The Pecan’s mother, her sister and my sister as mothers to our niece and nephews. As culturally internalized as they’ve become, I feel somewhat obstinate in my position that Hallmark holidays are bullshit across the board — so for that matter are Labor Day, Memorial Day, Patriots Day, and so on — but you can’t really argue when faced with the fact of owing your literal existence to another person.

So we’re doing brunch. Tomorrow. Upwards of 17 people by the most recent count. I’ve been cleaning most of the week and still have vacuuming to do. Also spent a good amount of time this week on fest-guide writeups for the Freak Valley Festival lineup — chipping away at the last of them today, I hope, though I also need to do a plus-sized grocery shopping as a matter of pre-Kindergarten-pickup priority — and a couple testimonials for European bands coming the States this Fall (nobody that hasn’t already been announced). This is my way of saying the week has been a lot and I’m glad it’s over.

That is tempered somewhat by next week and at least half the week after (still slating stuff) being Quarterly Reviews. Stupid, but gotta be done, both for bigger records that I feel like I should be covering — High on Fire, Pallbearer, Uncle Acid, Bongripper, Inter Arma, etc. — and a bunch of other awesome shit that’s come in/out in the last few months or is upcoming. So I’m gonna dig in as much as I can and do as much as I can.

See you there on Monday. Whatever you’re up to in the interim, have a great and safe weekend. Again, thank you for reading.


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Om Announce Fall West Coast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Om photo by Tim Bugbee

I guess this is the part where I say it’s been 10 years since Om released Advaitic Songs (review here), and though rumors have persisted of an album being this or that in some stage of done or not, I’ve yet to see anything manifest in concrete, confirmed fashion since 2019’s excellent BBC Radio 1 (review here) live record. And at this point, maybe it’s unreasonable to expect another one to come, right? Maybe in your life you get to make one album like that if you’re lucky enough, and maybe that kind of scope and realization isn’t something that could happen twice. Lightning meet bottle, etc. I don’t know. If it’s a question of their having set a standard by releasing one of the best records of the 2010s — and one that, despite being issued so early in the decade, actually held up for the rest of it — I’d be happy just to hear Al Cisernos‘ Rickenbacker mellow out for 35 or so minutes on some songs. Anything past that is gravy, really.

Om have Fall tour dates announced with Zombi. They’ll be doing the Midwest and West Coast, some shows in Canada. I’d love to see this band again, as I’ve missed chance after chance and it’s been a while by now, but maybe next time. And of course if I hear/see/smell anything about a new full-length, I’ll probably post faster than I can even type, so apologies in advance when everything is spelled wrong.

Dates from socials:

Om tour

OM Tour

All shows with Zombi

09.08 Oklahoma City OK 89th St. OKC
09.09 Lawrence KS The Bottleneck
09.10 Omaha NE Slowdown
09.12 Des Moines IA Wooly’s
09.15 Chicago IL Thalia Hall
09.16 Milwaukee WI Cactus Club
09.17 Minneapolis MN Fine Line
09.20 Winnipeg MB Canada Pyramid Cabaret
09.22 Saskatoon SK Canada Amigos Cantina
09.23 Edmonton AB Canada The Starlite Room
09.24 Calgary AB Canada Dickens
09.27 Vancouver BC Canada Rickshaw Theatre
09.28 Seattle WA The Crocodile
09.29 Bellingham WA Wild Buffalo
09.30 Tacoma WA Alma Mater
10.01 Portland OR Aladdin Theater
10.03 Berkeley CA The UC Theater
10.04 Felton CA The Felton Music Hall
10.05 Los Angeles CA Lodge Room
10.06 Los Angeles CA Lodge Room
10.07 Solana Beach CA Belly Up Tavern
10.10 Mesa AZ The Nile
10.11 Las Vegas NV Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas
10.12 Salt Lake City UT Metro Music Hall
10.13 Englewood CO The Gothic Theatre
10.15 Albuquerque NM Sister Bar

OM lineup:
Al Cisneros
Emil Amos
Tyler Trotter

Om, Advaitic Songs (2012)

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Om Announce Rescheduled UK and European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Kind of painful to realize, but by the time Om hit the UK and Europe next Spring, they’ll be coming up on almost a full decade’s remove from their 2012 landmark fifth and most-recent long-player, Advaitic Songs (review here). Of course, founding bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros has hardly been idle in the intervening years — except perhaps for the enforced idleness of this past year-plus — having shifted his focus onto Sleep, but still, 10 years without an Om record is a long time. The band issued the vinyl-only BBC Radio 1 (review here) on Drag City in 2019, and if you didn’t get that, I don’t really have much better advice for you than to do so when/if possible. It’s one of those things you’ll be happy you brought into your domicile.

Om‘s last tour was happening as the COVID lockdowns hit in 2020. They were on the road with Wovenhand, which would’ve been a show to see and kudos to those lucky enough to have done so. Doesn’t seem unreasonable to think North American dates will be announced at some point either before or after this trip abroad, and there’ve been rumors of Om recordings in process for years at this point. I know if that if I was in a position of following-up Advaitic Songs, I’d want to take my time too. I have no doubt whenever their next offering comes, it will find welcome.

Here are dates:

om 2022 touring

Om 2022 UK & European Tour

05.13 Bergen Norway Landmark
05.14 Oslo Norway Kulturkirken Jakob
05.16 Gothenburg Sweden Pustervik
05.17 Copenhagen Denmark Pumphuset
05.19 Berlin Germany So36
05.20 Leipzig Germany Ut Connewitz
05.22 Athens Greece Gagarin 205
05.25 Brighton UK Chalk
05.26 Bristol UK The Fleece
05.27 Birmingham UK The Crossing
05.28 Glasgow UK SWG3 Galvanisers
05.30 Dublin Ireland Button Factory
05.31 Liverpool UK 24 Kitchen Street
06.01 Manchester UK Gorilla
06.02 Leeds UK Brudenell Social Club
06.03 London UK EartH
06.06 Brussels Belgium Botanique
06.07 Brussels Belgium Botanique
06.08 Essen Germany Zeche Carl
06.09 Hamburg Germany Knust
06.10 Utrecht Netherlands Tivoli
06.13 Munich Germany Feierwerk
06.15 Zurich Switzerland Mascotte
06.16 Bern Switzerland ISC Club
06.19 Lille France L’Aeronef

OM lineup:
Al Cisneros
Emil Amos
Tyler Trotter

Om, Advaitic Songs (2012)

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Holy Sons to Release Raw and Disfigured Oct. 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

holy sons (Photo by Mark Petit)

Kind of astonishing how much Emil Amos‘ work remains his own. That is to say, he’s known for Grails and for playing drums in Om, but Holy Sons is his in a way that neither of those outfits could be, and his utter mastery of songwriting is on display throughout the forthcoming Raw and Disfigured — due Oct. 30 on Thrill Jockey. You can hear it in “Lady of the Hour,” streaming below. Sure, he gets adventurous with arrangements a but — it’s a double-album, you’d better hope he does — and he has a few friends helping out along the way, but it’s right there. It’s the song. The song is the primary factor in what’s happening. It’s a song by a songwriter who sat down to write a song. If you think that notion is either simple or not beautiful, you are mistaken.

The album details are copious, but at its heart, Raw and Disfigured is a collection of these songs, with both an intimacy and a breadth that is the mark of what Amos brings to this outlet.

From the PR wire:

Holy Sons Raw and Disfigured

Holy Sons announces panoramic new double album Raw and Disfigured Out on Oct. 30th, 2020

Listen to single “Lady of the Hour”:

Holy Sons, the project of multi-instrumentalist and singer Emil Amos, has announced the ambitious, panoramic double album Raw and Disfigured, out Oct. 30th. Along with the announcement, Holy Sons has shared the album’s first single “Lady of the Hour”, a vista of sweeping pastoral layers and melodies that grasp towards hope rather than resignation.

Under the name Holy Sons, as well as with bands Om, Grails, and Lilacs and Champagne, Amos harnesses boundless sonic textures to embellish delicately crafted songs. His music balances cues from classic and indie rock traditions with a tenderness and sense of foreboding through unparalleled artistry. Raw and Disfigured showcases Amos’ mastery of songcraft through a seemingly impossible combination of subtle yet potent gestures, bold arrangements and resolute vulnerability resulting in songs as beautiful as they are crushing.

The recording of Raw and Disfigured took place largely at Sonic Youth’s studio Echo Canyon West. Amos, who plays the bulk of the instruments and sings the majority of the vocals throughout the album, is joined on a few pieces by drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), as well as album and WFMU in-house engineer Ernie Indradat.

The album draws thematically from the archetypal tale of Quasimodo and classic ghost story imagery to illustrate the “hero’s journey” in the time of a coming apocalypse. From the opening swells, Amos creates a sense of mystery and tension. Melodic sections pierce through the thick fogs of unease with gliding choral harmonies and guitar lines. Rich vocals draw you into an exotic atmosphere of mystical musical sounds, while classic lilting guitar lines entice you further. Raw and Disfigured proves the enduring power of the rock ballad without dwelling on the nostalgic tropes. The ballads of Holy Sons are ballads for these dark times.

Raw & Disfigured tracklist:
1. The Loser that Always Wins
2. Lady of the Hour
3. Cast Bound King
4. Hand that Feeds
5. Permanent Things
6. Four Walls
7. Held the Hand
8. Lost in the Fire
9. Transformation
10. Slow to Run
11. Reach Out and Touch Something
12. Cóiste Bodhar
13. Nights Like This
14. Up on that Hill
15. Backslider’s Wine
16. Bloody Strings

Pre-order Holy Sons’ Raw and Disfigured:

Holy Sons, “Lady of the Hour”

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 31

Posted in Radio on April 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

The theme for this episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio is pretty straightforward if you listen. It’s comfort songs. You would not necessarily believe that of a playlist that opens with Total Fucking Destruction doing the title-track of an album called To Be Alive at the End of the World, but again, once you listen, it’s actually kind of soothing. There’s a fair amount of instrumental material included, led off by Yawning Man, and I think the part with Vinnum Sabbathi and Forming the Void is probably as heavy as it gets, though that new Elephant Tree track certainly has some roll to it. God damn that’s a good song, not that that’s a huge surprise from those guys.

I haven’t cut the voice breaks for it yet but will do so sometime before this is posted, but I intend to talk a bit about the Om song and my association with their early work and seeing them at SXSW for what I think might’ve been the first time. It was a while ago and it’s hard to remember for a few reasons, but anyway, if I can remember it between typing this and speaking that, I hope to speak to it a bit, because I know that’s not their most soothing stuff by a long shot, but the memory I have of it puts it in that framework for me. Closing with YOB’s “Marrow” was, of course, a given.

Thanks for listening if you do. I hope you enjoy, and if you see this and don’t listen, then thanks for reading. If you’re not reading, well, you’ll never know you were being thanked.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 04.03.20

Total Fucking Destruction To be Alive at the End of the World To be Alive at the End of the World*
Yawning Man I Make Weird Choices Macedonian Lines
Acid King Center of Everywhere Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
Colour Haze Peace, Brothers and Sisters! Colour Haze
Pretty Lightning Boogie at the Shrine Jangle Bowls*
Elephant Tree Bird Habits*
Charivari Lotus Eater Descent*
Tia Carrera Layback Tried and True*
Vinnum Sabbathi Quantum Determinism Of Dimensions & Theories*
Forming the Void Manifest Reverie*
Om Annapurna Variations on a Theme
YOB Marrow Clearing the Path to Ascend

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is April 17 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Om Touring in February / March with Wovenhand

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan


I cannot stress enough how much you should own Om‘s BBC Radio 1 (review here). Yes, it’s a double 10-inch vinyl, and I’m perfectly willing to admit that that’s kind of a silly thing when it would’ve fit on a single 12-inch platter, but face it, you’re going to listen to the download anyway, so quitcherbitchin and get on board. I’m only trying to make your life better by telling you this.

Do I think it’s a coincidence that Om have announced tour dates the same week that bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros‘ other band — they’re called Sleep, you know — have announced a hiatus? I don’t know. Probably? They’ll have Wovenhand out with them though, as they did on a tour leading to Monolith on the Mesa earlier this year, so if you want to think of this as a fuller leg of that run, go for it. Om have toured pretty steadily over the time that Cisneros has been/was involved in Sleep again, so it’s not like it’s some sudden resurgence or anything.

Of course, the big question is when/if/whether there will be a new album out next year, and if this tour might preface or accompany or otherwise somehow relate to that possibility. I have no insight on the matter other than to say, “golly, that sure would be nice,” so yeah, no insight at all basically. Shrug.

Go see Om. And buy that goddamn live record.


om tour poster

OM Live:
12/14/19 Pioneer Works Brooklyn NY
2/21/20 Mohawk Austin TX w/ Wovenhand
2/22/20 Gas Monkey Bar & Grill Dallas TX w/ Wovenhand
2/24/20 George’s Majestic Lounge Fayetteville AR w/ Wovenhand
2/25/20 Growlers Memphis TN w/ Wovenhand
2/26/20 Saturn Birmingham AL w/ Wovenhand
2/27/20 Terminal West Atlanta GA w/ Wovenhand
2/28/20 Grey Eagle Asheville NC w/ Wovenhand
2/29/20 Motorco Chapel Hill NC w/ Wovenhand
3/2/20 Black Cat Washington DC w/ Wovenhand
3/3/20 Underground Arts Philadelphia PA w/ Wovenhand
3/5/20 The Sinclair Cambridge MA w/ Wovenhand
3/6/20 Columbus Theatre Providence RI w/ Wovenhand
3/8/20 Spirit Hall w/ Wovenhand
3/9/20 Grog Shop Cleveland Heights OH w/ Wovenhand
3/11/20 Headliners Music Hall Louisville KY w/ Wovenhand
3/12/20 The Pyramid Scheme Grand Rapids MI w/ Wovenhand
3/13/20 Garfield Park Conservatory Chicago IL w/ Wovenhand
3/16/20 Fine Line Minneapolis MN w/ Wovenhand
3/17/20 Wooly’s Des Moines IA w/ Wovenhand
3/18/20 Slowdown Omaha NE w/ Wovenhand
3/19/20 The Bottleneck Lawrence ks w/ Wovenhand
3/20/20 89th Street Oklahoma City OK w/ Wovenhand
3/21/20 Sister Albuquerque NM w/ Wovenhand

OM lineup:
Al Cisneros
Emil Amos
Tyler Trotter

Om, Live in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 31, 2019

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 24

Posted in Radio on November 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

It’s been forever since there was an episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio, but I’m glad to say that there was never any chance of it not continuing eventually. At least not one that I was told about — ha. Gimme had a bunch of specials booked, and well, if it’s me or the dude from Enslaved, or really anybody, I can’t really put up much of a fight that I should be given preference. I’m the dude who plays heavy rock on a metal station, and I’ve got a pretty good timeslot to do it. Yeah, I’m gonna get picked off in favor of special episodes. No worries. I kind of needed a break anyway.

So maybe think of this as the start of Season 2 of The Obelisk Show. I know that all the The Next Generation-era Star Trek shows operated with 24-episode seasons, but I don’t think anyone will begrudge me one fewer. Enterprise might’ve had a 23-episode season somewhere in there. I’d have to check. Either way, Season 2 picks up pretty much where Season 1 left off: a butt-load of new music and me nerding out about Colour Haze.

I talk a bit about the Høstsabbat fest in Norway that I went to last month, give the Brume record a plug and am a total geek for Al Cisneros’ bass tone on that new Om live release, so yes, pretty much the show is getting caught up with what’s been going on around here while it was off the air. A bit of shaking off the rust, but the playlist rules and I tried not to screw it all up too badly on mic. I haven’t heard the finished product yet, so we’ll see if it was a success. In any case, I hope you dig it.

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs at 1PM Eastern today.

Listen at:

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 11.08.19


All Them Witches 1×1 1×1* 0:05:51
Ufomammut Satan XX* 0:03:12
Colour Haze Tempel Tempel 0:08:30
Brume Scurry Rabbits* 0:10:58
Kadavar Children of the Night For the Dead Travel Fast* 0:05:59
The Lone Madman Häxan Let the Night Come* 0:07:29
Ogre King of the Wood Thrice as Strong* 0:05:41
Orodruin Letter of Life’s Regret Ruins of Eternity* 0:05:14
Monolord Larvae No Comfort* 0:09:38
Bask Rid of You III* 0:04:40
Grin Helix Translucent Blades* 0:05:23
Om State of Non-Return BBC Radio 1* 0:08:22
Deaf Radio Dance Like a Reptile Modern Panic* 0:04:19
Devil to Pay 37 Trillion Forever, Never or Whenever* 0:03:10
Clouds Taste Satanic Second Sight Second Sight 0:20:21
Total runtime: 1:48:47

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Nov. 22. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Om, BBC Radio 1: Sing the Advaitic

Posted in Reviews on October 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Om BBC Radio 1

Some seven years ago, in 2012, Om issued their fifth full-length, Advaitic Songs (review here), through Drag City and thereby secured a place high among the decade’s best releases. Though founding bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros has split time in the years since between Om and the ongoing reunion of landmark stoner metallers Sleep, the album has continued to hold its audience, and its influence continues to spread to other acts on multiple continents. It was the kind of offering upon which legacies are made, and the new live recording BBC Radio 1 (also Drag City) is a reminder of that, even if only half its inclusions are actually from Advaitic Songs itself. Those songs, “Gethsemane” and “State of Non-Return,” are enough to get the point across on the limited gatefold double-10″ vinyl outing, and paired with “Cremation Ghat I” and “Cremation Ghat II” from 2009’s God is Good (review here) it is stirring and hypnotic in kind, the kind of release that makes you wish it was longer than its all-too-brief 29-minute run.

Om‘s lineup has shifted since Advaitic Songs. While that record marked the introduction of LichensRobert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (who had also appeared on God is Good) as a full member handling keys, percussion, vocals, etc., earlier in 2019, Cisneros and longtime drummer Emil Amos (also Grails, Holy Sons, and so on) brought in Tyler Trotter as the third member, and it was this incarnation of the band that recorded BBC Radio 1 at the British Broadcasting Company‘s studio in London’s upscale Maida Vale neighborhood, with its quietly old-money residences, tree-lined city streets and small but welcoming coffee/tea shops. The tracking was done on May 3, which was just a couple weeks before Om toured the Southwest ahead of playing Monolith on the Mesa, and about two months ahead of their Summer 2019 European tour, which included stops at Lake on Fire in Austria and SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal, but if hitting the BBC studio was the only reason Om made the trip abroad, one can hardly fault their logic in doing so. The results are little short of immaculate.

That sounds like hyperbole, and maybe it is, but you have to believe me when I say that this recording of “State of Non-Return” features if not the best then certainly one of the top three bass tones I’ve ever heard. I’m a sucker for bass tone anyway, and Cisneros is a master of low-end warmth, but for the tidal surge kick-in of distortion on the second track here alone, BBC Radio 1 is worth whatever Drag City want to charge for it. I’m dead serious. This isn’t a live release like something captured on someone’s phone at a random show. This is a professionally-recorded, in-studio offering of a band performing their work. It is a true documentation of their sound with album-quality fidelity and live performance. And I’m not going to take away from the dream-state sway beginnings of “Gethsemane” or Amos‘ drumming on “Cremation Ghat I” or the texture Trotter seamlessly weaves into the songs via keyboard throughout, but even on Om‘s earlier albums, when it was just bass/drums/vocals and so each of those elements was all the more showcased, I don’t know if the bass ever sounded so rich. If they put it out as an isolated track on its own — a bonus download or “dubplate” or whatever — I’d buy it happily. I mean it.


Opening with “Gethsemane” leads the way down the path. Its beginning is like a guided breathing exercise to clear the mind, and what unfolds from there in the wash of crash cymbals, the ping of ride, the pop of snare, the softly flowing bassline and the chant-like keyboard ahead of the first verse is duly immersive. Cisneros‘ voice arrives like a pilgrim one might meet in the wilderness, some kind of spiritual seeker who knows the place, can show the way toward safe passage while telling you stories that happen in dimensions most people can’t perceive. So you set off. Amos‘ drums are the footsteps, Trotter‘s keys the ground, and “Gethsemane” is both journey and destination. At 11 minutes, it’s both opener and longest inclusion (immediate points) on BBC Radio 1, and its sense of grace isn’t to be understated, nor the fluidity with which it feeds into “State of Non-Return,” which at 8:22 is two minutes longer than on Advaitic Songs, but still unfurls the aforementioned distortion about 45 seconds into the proceedings. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if they wanted to make the song last another 10 minutes, that’d be welcome as well. If it’s two, okay. I’ll take that.

Though it’s shorter than “Gethsemane” and backed up by “Cremation Ghat I” and “Cremation Ghat II,” “State of Non-Return” is an obvious focal point on BBC Radio 1 for its shift in tone and relative rhythmic push. Even putting aside the glorious rumble of Cisneros‘ making, it radiates energy as delivered here and presents a subtle momentum leading out of the first 10″ and en route to the second, which houses the final two tracks, one per side. “Cremation Ghat I” holds some of the momentum forth in Amos‘ drumming and the winding bassline that accompanies, but its run is brief at 3:51 and mostly instrumental, so the vibe has shifted accordingly, as, one supposes, it would have to. This leads to the drone-backed “Cremation Ghat II,” longer at 5:37, which closes out in perhaps giving some sense of arrival at the place to which the beginning of “Gethsemane” was setting off. Maybe (definitely) that’s putting too simplistic a narrative to it, and maybe the journey and destination are the same thing. I wouldn’t know. Maybe the sense of “going somewhere” is wrong altogether and the point is to be still.

But take from it either way that especially for a live recording, BBC Radio 1 is evocative in a way that allows for these kinds of varying interpretations. Certainly one would expect that the BBC knows what it’s doing in capturing a band playing, but it’s worth emphasizing this isn’t just performance-to-tape. It’s museum-quality. It’s a document of Om in 2019 and, for anyone who may have needed it, an underscore to the effect the band have had on the course of heavy over this decade which, one assumes, will only continue to spread into the next. Advaitic Songs is long since due for a follow-up, but BBC Radio 1 earns its place in Om‘s pantheon through its methodical, patient and serene atmosphere, showcasing Om as a band of singular, unmatched resonance. Recommended.

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