Om: God Is Good
Om: God Is Good
Om has carved a deep and unwavering groove through the '00s heavy/art-music scene with its bass-and-drums drones, combining mid-tempo sludge riffs and cod-mystic incantations into slabs of stoner mind-blow, each as essentially alike and unchanging as pyramid stones. As with Lungfish or Fela or the Dirty Three, each of the three previous Om studio albums sounded pretty much like the others--which is to say admirably basic, haunting, and potent. God Is Good, the band's inaugural release for Drag City and its first without founding drummer Chris Hakius, finds bassist Al Cisneros (joined by moonlighting Grails drummer Emil Amos) expanding his palette to colorize Om's previously pristine granite-gray sound. It's not a good look.
In this case, "expanding his palette" means flute, which toots and trills over the ominous trudge of God Is Good's "Meditation Is the Practice of Death." Not to knee-jerk hate on flute, but it seems a particularly uninspired and naked attempt at invoking the cosmic, as does the buzzing tambura, fugitive from a thousand middling psych albums, undergirding the textbook Om slow-burn opener "Thebes." Not every new gambit fares so poorly--the borderline handclap-funk flavor and keening background vocals of "Cremation Ghat I" bring an Atlas Mountains feel to the duo's hitherto Nile Valley-centric vibe--and "Thebes" builds to a satisfyingly familiar churn. Diluting its ascetic attack with such overplayed black-light crash-pad trappings doesn't feel like growth as much as retrenchment, though, creating a conspicuous rip in the brooding mood that makes this stuff work at all. Next thing you know, you're gonna start actually paying attention to whatever Cisneros is mumbling and the spell will be broken.