27 Sep 2012: The Button Factory Dublin, Ireland
The 27th of September, 2012 marks Arthur’s Day in Dublin. A day dedicated to the legacy of Arthur Guinness: the founder of the weighty, alcoholic soup known the world over. On this day at 17:59pm (relevance of this time being: 1759 was the year that the Guinness brewery was established) people the country over grasp a pint of the “black stuff” and hoist it skyward as a toast to the man whose creation has pickled livers and added girth to the gut of many a bar jockey for over 250 years. Because of such celebrations, Dublin has an incessant buzz about it: people drinking merrily in the streets, traditional Irish music wafting out of bars, and around the hub of the city—Temple Bar—there seems to be quite a crowd gathering outside the Button Factory; a venue, that tonight, just so happens to be hosting OM’s mantras of musical transcendence.
Originally, OM’s first show on Irish soil was scheduled to be held in a different (smaller) venue, but demand for tickets was such that the show has now been upgraded to the larger confines of the Button Factory. Whether this has to do with the heroic set Sleep recently played in this very venue, OM’s latest trip Advaitic Songs, or the sudden influx of visitors here to take part in the Arthur’s Day festivities, is unclear. Whatever the reason, it is heartening to see OM summon such a large crowd. After two painful support bands who attempt to channel the shamanic charisma of The Doors—and fail miserably, OM take about setting up their own gear without any fanfare. The band has been expanded to a three-piece with the core duo of the perennially stoned bassist Al Cisneros (Sleep/Shrinebuilder) and former Grails drummer Emil Amos being joined by multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.
Lowe (who has his own project called Lichens and has played on OM’s latest album, Advaitic Songs) has added subtle sonic layers to the intentionally minimalist instrumentation that OM has built their temple on, and this becomes apparent once “Sinai” begins to drift around the crowd. Lowe—sitting at a table facing Cisneros and to the left of Amos, armed with a synthesizer, tambura, and a voice that can create every sound imaginable (think Police Academy’s Michael Winslow mixed with a synthesizer packed full of Middle-Eastern samples and you are half way there!)—is a focal point of the band in a live setting. It leaves the legendary Cisneros to focus on his bass playing, as his supple grooves on “Sinai” makes the audience sway; kept in time by Amos’ ride cymbal-heavy beat that repeats the cyclic flow. It is a great way to open the gig, but the band seem disengaged from the audience (way more than usual), and this results in a lack of discarnate energy between the crowd and OM, which carries through to the triumvirate of God Is Good hymns that follow: “Meditation Is The Practice Of Death”, and the instrumental pairing of “Cremation Ghat I” and “Cremation Ghat II”.
Each of these three tracks manages to daze the audience, but because of that incorporeal barrier—which may be a result of the large venue—the hypnotism usually synonymous with OM’s live show is non-existent. Cheers follow the opening bass notes of “State Of Non-Return”, as Cisneros lets a monstrous, Sleep-like groove erupt from his bass, and it contrasts with the more somnambulant sections of the previous two tracks; providing a welcome distorted jolt of adrenaline. An extended version of 7” inch single “Gebel Barkel” arises and the crowd seems to be unfamiliar with it, nonetheless, the song is archetypal OM: full of undulating bass lines and dynamic, heavily accented but considered drum patterns, with Lowe’s sonic embellishments really elevating this live version past what has been etched into wax.
OM depart the stage after “Gebel Barkel” and leave what feels like a considerable gap between set and encore—the crowd heckling and one audience member even invading the stage to shout, “One more tune” into the microphone. OM return at their leisure and all is forgiven once the band begins playing encore “Bhima’s Theme” from their 2007 album, Pilgrimage. The distortion rains down, and tonight, this song proves to be OM at their most entrancing: Cisneros chanting highly cryptic, yet evocative refrains in his signature detached manner, locking into a tight, impenetrable groove with Amos, as Lowe showcases the extent of his vocal ability—his hands contorted by the music, he banishes the synth, and once the floor shaking groove kicks back in, uses his voice to make disturbing Middle Eastern sounding noises. It is an intoxicating ending to what has been a peculiar and underwhelming show; one that has lacked the potent connection necessary between band and audience. As a live concern, OM can reach high levels of spiritual enlightenment and this band is capable of filling the vacuous hole in an audiences’ soul, but tonight something is definitely missing. Because of their track record, let us give OM the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the Guinness: To Arthur!!
2. Meditation Is The Practice Of Death
3. Cremation Ghat I
4. Cremation Ghat II
5. State of Non-Return
6. Gebel Barkel
7. Bhima’s Theme