Friday Album Portrait – Om’s “Adviatic Songs”

Label affiliation has gone completely to the wayside. The notion of flipping through a label’s catalogue at your local record store is silly… we have iGenius and PandoraRadio and the ‘How are you feeling?’ tab on Spotify that can tailor-make a playlist within nanoseconds to match your interior landscapes of ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ or ‘tweaking like an abandoned Harlow monkey.’ As in all things 21st Century, the personal and creative aspects have been raped from the process and we are no longer trusted to find our music ourselves. Our loyalty is to the dollar, to the fad, to what the public perceives as cool or hip or must-have… preferably all of the above. Packaging fees, marketing campaigns, capital capital capital… money at the root, once again. But there are ways to maintain autonomy despite this Orwellian freak-out, and nothing beats the corporate brand better than small label allegiance.

Holy Mountain has brought me more musical nuggets than any smart-phone app… http://www.holymountain.com/… from my first encounter I have been successful in finding a dense psychedelic sound within the band pages of this Oregon-based label. Birds of Maya, Cloudland Canyon, Moon Duo, M. Geddes Gengras, Wooden Shjips… I have relied on these unique and powerful sounds to introduce other people to music they wouldn’t have access to via their Facebook friends’ Likes. Today, I bring you my personal favorite, fresh off the sacred summit… Om.

Om is comprised of stoner metal legends Al Cisneros (vocals, guitar) and Chris Hakius (drums), and by legends I mean they comprised the core of the 90’s band Sleep that recorded one of the most quintessential doom/stoner/heavy/black metal albums of all time, Dopesmoker. Cisneros & Hakius have been around the game for 20 years and their sound as Om shows. Their latest release, Adviatic Songs, tones down the molten riff-splitting of earlier days and exchanges it for a mantra-based exploration of sound and space. Adviatic Songs boils psych, drone, metal and chant in a cauldron of Sufi spirits and Vedic potions to form one of the more interesting albums I’ve encountered this year.

A lone female voice in deep chant opens the album with ‘Addis’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr0g2EgWdXI&feature=related)… you feel as though the sun has just risen from the ground, leading pilgrims and hermits to the center of a bosky ashram. The lyrics are in fact a prayer to Shiva (the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra), the Hindu god of destruction & meditation, to overcome spiritual death. Om is not concerned with the material world… layers of violins and a haunting piano gently fill into the guitar riffs as her prayer ends and the journey begins. ‘State of No-Return’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxBeyT5884w) continues the purification ritual, a heavy rolling attack to put some contrast to the album’s opener. The opening prayer has been offered, but now the battle of many planes begins… “From the rounds of rebirth, he arrives onto the deathless”… the name of the album, Adviatic Songs, seems to be a Hindu reference the process a disciple must go through to attain higher levels of consciousness and experience… the aesthete rejecting his senses, the yogi perched on his deerskin mat moving through another level of experience.

The Kundalini slowly rises with ‘Sinai,’ a single steady tone that Cisneros’ distorted vocals uncoil, unafraid as it approaches the lotus, the summit… “Reabsorbed on the peak of the mountain.” Finally the tension cracks with an airy bass-line, pulsating just enough to carry the song into an infusion of cymbal crashes and hovering violins… the initial tone remains at the base of the tree, the source of energy for the song’s progression up the chakras.

 ‘Gethsamene’ and ‘Haqq al-Yaqin,’ in name only, show the diversity of the material from where Cisneros is drawing inspiration… the first song title (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0ht7BP_wks&feature=related) referring to the garden in which Christ’s great agony took place, sweating blood and asking the Father for a way out… the music itself, pensive & expansive with a seashore-drone churning in and rushing out, perhaps the Savior breathing deeply, feeling life inside him before his trials.  The second track is named for a Sufi liberation concept that means the individual is in ‘the total reality of certainty,’ a fitting way to end the experience… at the top of the mountain, in which knowledge is not restricted to the intellect, but becomes the entirety of the person… you are the vision.

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