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OM | Conference of the Birds | review | rock | Lollipop
Conference of the Birds (Holy Mountain)
by Brian Varney
OM is a band that just plain shouldn't work. To be honest, I was never very fond of Sleep, the legendary proto-stoner '90s trio whose guitarist, Matt Pike, now fronts High on Fire. The two remaining members, Chris Hakius and Al Cisneros, returned after a long sabbatical as bass-and-guitar stoner duo, OM. The fact that I don't like Sleep makes it kind of a no-brainer that I wouldn't like OM, a band that sounds like, and in fact is, Sleep with no guitar. The band's debut release, Variations on a Theme, made very little impression, other than a confirmation of my suspicions.
When Conference of the Birds showed up, I expected more of the same endless, pointless droning. The quiet opening minutes of "At Giza" stalled me for a few moments. This was dark and psychedelic, creepy and almost sexy, far more reminiscent of the eerie side of the late '60s and bands like the Doors and Iron Butterfly and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"-era Pink Floyd than the rote Sabbath-worshipping meanderings I was expecting. I sat in complete stillness, waiting for the explosion into mediocrity that I expected at any moment, but it didn't come. The quiet creepiness continued, although it began to swell ever so slightly, so subtly that you wouldn't realize it was happening unless you removed yourself from the trance you'd unwittingly entered and listened objectively. Holy shit, I realized, this was GOOD. Good like private pressing holy grails promise to be, but never are. When the long-expected explosion of volume and distortion finally happened in the last three minutes, I was enthralled because, in this context, it was absolutely perfect.
The album's other track, "Flight of the Eagle," is more of a representation of what I'd call the "standard" OM sound. Cisneros's bass is heavily distorted, Hakius's drums plod like they've been submerged in a bath of road asphalt, and very little happens in the way of songcraft or progression of any sort. I'd guess this is nice accompaniment for psychedelics (the drugs, not the music) freaks who love the heavy and need something to blare in the background whilst laying on the ground and staring at the night sky for hours at a time. This is of far less interest to me than "At Giza," but I like that song enough to recommend the album as a whole to anyone interested in experiencing some new, genuinely psychedelic rock music.