It was impossible not to be moved last night by the music of OM, as the visceral, low-end sounds moved through your body and the music hit you and washed around you like a physical force. The mixture of those chthonic tones, with the clatter of cymbals and tambura, octave modulating over the top and drifting around while Al Cisneros spoke/sang mystical couplets and Robert Lowe sustained wordless, higher pitched tones and sampled chanting creating a sonic mosaic for over an hour.
See also: - The men of OM discuss the primacy of rhythm and songwriting being like sculpting - Scott Kelly of Neurosis on playing every show like it's the last - The six best metal shows in Denver this month
For this show, OM pretty much played Advaitic Songs in its entirety, plus two of its best older songs, with "Meditation Is the Practice of Death," from God Is Good, and "Gebel Barkal," from that great Sub Pop single of the same name. Using an E-mu PK-6 and a Moog Taurus, Cisneros, who had the PK-6 in front of him on the floor, and Lowe created sounds and then put them through an octave effect of some kind. Both the bass and what looked like Lowe's guitar (but probably a kind of tambura) had this pitch-shifted type of sound that was akin to some sort of organ.
Cisneros shifted between that sound and a smooth, languid bass tone, as well as a more fuzzed out, but quite distinct, sound throughout the show. While everyone in this band is a talented and skilled musician, it was the creative use of elements from Emil Amos's drum rolls, coming off a splayed rhythm, that gave this slow-paced music its inexorable dynamism, as Cisneros and Lowe took turns creating the lead melody. Somehow, the whole thing never got tedious as some drone-based music can.
Cisneros seemed genuinely touched and grateful that so many people came out to the show, and he expressed as much throughout the set. Watching him play intricate bass parts and making them seem so easy and simple, often playing finger style with just his index finger, was impressive on its own, especially because some of his runs were rapid and tricky.
Live, the music didn't really seem so much as coming from Arabic, Turkish, Indian or any other kind of non-western music. It was just dark, dense, expansive and dreamy music operating on an intuitive, almost subconscious, level. At the end of the show, although a lot of people could have probably stood another hour of music, OM had set its parameters for the evening and didn't indulge what might have been an obligatory, and predictable, encore.
Earlier in the evening, Sir Richard Bishop opened the show with an impressive display of imaginative guitar prowess. He seemed to hit a string to drone as he played fast, detailed but tuneful runs and created textures through the raw, physical properties of the instrument, including scraping strings and hitting the strings with differing amounts of force to create a different tone or accent.
It was like watching a master sitar player weave together folk, non-western guitar figures and a psychedelia based on tone, not a processing of sound beyond those capable of being created by the physicality of the instrument. The audience was into it and cheered after each song, which shouldn't be too surprising; anyone who could be into OM could clearly appreciate the genius of the former Sun City Girls singer and guitarist.
Personal Bias: I've been a fan of (and seen live) all the other bands everyone on this bill has been in, including Sleep, Holy Sons, Lichens and Sun City Girls. Getting to see them all do this stuff was incredible.
Random Detail: Ran into Allison Young (nervesandgel), Deirdre Sage (Kissing Party), former Westword and Onion scribe Tuyet Nguyen, Sam Goldner of Radio 1190's Color Me In program, Zach Bauer (former Zombie Zombie, The Outer Neon), Scott Bagus (formerly of Moccasin) and Grant Netzorg (In the Company of Serpents) at the show.
By the Way: Advaitic Songs is an excellent example of why this band can't be just considered doom or metal or anything in one genre.
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