OM + Daniel Higgs at the Empty Bottle | Concert preview
Drone mantras and outsider sermonizing.
When California doom father Sleep imploded back in 1998, two formidable new acts rose from the ash storm. Guitarist Matt Pike channeled Sleep’s übermetal ethos into shredding, snarling trio High on Fire, while bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius ditched the doom and dove into the quasi-spiritual drone mantras of OM. After five years together, the band had a lineup shuffle prior to 2009 album God Is Good. Hakius was replaced by Portland postrock savant Emil Amos, whose metronomic drumming elevated OM’s trippy, sludgy grooves to an almost prog-like accuracy. The band’s recently released fifth album, Advaitic Songs, features yet another new addition to the lineup: former Chicagoan and multi-instrumentalist Robert A.A. Lowe, who breaks out the tamboura and lends his high-reaching, textural vocals to a handful of tracks.
Despite delivering meditative, bong-packing drone at its finest, OM’s tempos walk the razor’s edge. The group has steadily shed the slo-mo Sabbathy grooves and loose, ambiguous structures so beloved of Sleep fans and tightened the reins on its spacey permutations. While the doom may be diluted, OM still carves out sweet, monolithic psych soundscapes that resonate best in a live setting.
Support comes from former Lungfish frontman and bearded preacher Daniel Higgs, a man who remains difficult to pin down. He could be rocking a Jew’s harp or cultivating an epic banjo improv. Whatever approach he takes, Higgs is sure to deliver the perfect opening sermon for OM’s Saturday night Mass.