Review: Om – Advaitic Songs

Listening to Advaitic Songs helped me to understand the potential reasons behind my dissatisfaction with God Is Good. I’m not an Om “purist”, and don’t feel any betrayal in the duo’s decision to expand on the bass/drum core that was strictly – almost religiously – adhered to throughout their earlier work. But those new additions to Om’s sound initially felt cautiously executed, as though the band had also come to view their sound as a sacred untouchable – the “new stuff” was kept somewhat at distance from the “old stuff”, and once “Thebes” set the album into a classic Om groove, the tanpuras, flutes, and unusual percussive inflections instantly vacated as if frightened to impede the sonic ritual.

With Advaitic Songs, the duo fully embrace the expansion of their tradition. The bass of Al Cisneros is still the central element, resonating and winding ribbon-like across each of these five tracks, yet now slinks in amongst swoops of string arrangement, middle-Eastern vocal chant and tunnels of reverberant drone with unquestionable cohesion. Perhaps the most striking moments are those at which melody emerges out of the monotony, such as in the graceful violin descent during the end of “State Of Non-Return” and the crisp guitar duet of “Haqq al-Yaqin”, the latter of which sees the band tap into a melancholy that their sound never previously seemed capable of.

Of course, this transition hasn’t been at the negation of the band’s previous output. There is still plenty of the Om of old embedded in Advaitic Songs, which first announces its presence in a dirty distortion surge during “State Of Non-Return” – a track that manages to sound both sludgy and sleek simultaneously – before rising mirage-like from the Emil’s chiming 4/4 groove on “Gethsemane”. Whereas God Is Good felt self-conscious and calculated, losing its ability to hypnotise to jerky transitions and tentative instrumental additions, Advaitic Songs smoothly incorporates the band’s progression into a new whole, and proves that the band’s sacred trademark is actually open for expansion and experimentation.