Om - Pilgrimage (Southern Lord) Keith Boyd 10.10.07
It seems as though the concept of a pilgrimage is something that has largely disappeared from our culture. Sure we love a good "Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter" quest but that's all just for viewing. We can sit through someone else's trials and travels without the mess and fuss of actually doing it ourselves. Our whole society seems set up to void out any impulse on behalf of its inhabitants to go, to seek for their own sake. It's so set up for us. Even our rebellions have been turned into commodities. You want to Punk it up for a bit? Well look on line for the right tears to put in your clothing. You've been captured by the Rasta bug? You can now pay to have Dreads assembled on your head. Let's say you eschew these more overt forms of self-seeking and self-expression. Well the great poop machine in the sky has you covered too. You fancy yourself an intellectual do you? Step right up son! Here's your latest reprint from the cannon of cool and hey even better you can buy it at the corner Starbucks! All of the accumulated detritus of the last 50 years of subculture is yours to be had for a few keystrokes and a credit card on eBay. What about travel? Certainly traveling the world is still available to expand your mind and horizons. Well I've got some sad news for you Jack.Turns out our government has so completely fucked over most every cool place in the world that odds are you'll meet with more animosity in those places than during your nightly drive through the traffic on the freeway. Where there's still adventure to be found our corporation/government has been sticking its filthy fingers too. You'll find our big brands almost world wide now. Even small villages have some sort of internet access. What to do? Is it all just surface anymore? I can't help but feel the weight and sadness of this oppressing my mind. The short-sightedness and narrow-mindset of this contemporary culture is so pervasive that we can hardly fathom a Woman as president! Meanwhile the youth marches on. Cannon fodder for the wretches in power with their nasty little war. And while waiting their turn to die fill their heads with nonsense celebrity gossip and the illusion of connection through digital products of all manner. You see all the rebels dressing the part and sneering at their cell phone as they text off their latest passing observation as though it were scripture.
Is there no hope? I'm not so sure anymore. Even the rebel souls who emerge in our midst (Timothy Treadwell, Christopher McCandless for example) are scorned for being foolish and eventually turned into a product to be taken in by a passive audience. I guess if there is any hope for the continuance of the Pilgrimage instinct it lies either in the pursuit of artistic expression or within the realm of the spirit. I feel that at the very least it's our duty to champion art that pushes the limits. The process of making art is a form of pilgrimage. It takes the artist on a journey where they connect with a lineage, meet with adversaries and occasionally touch infinity. So in the spirit of honoring the singular and intensely personal I come to contemplate the latest offering from Om , titled appropriately enough, "Pilgrimage". This is what it's all about folks. This album throbs with life and mystery. The pulsing bass and drums of Om lays down a bed of hypnotic drone that transports your spirit to some vaguely Arabian paradise filled with peacocks, hookahs and mosaic fountains. This music is coming from somewhere deep inside and it hits with a force more complex and nuanced than you'd think two instruments alone could muster. Om is of course the vehicle of Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius both of whom were in the late, great Stoner-Metal band Sleep. This is their third album and with each one they've figured out new space to explore and inhabit. In particular this album finds them treading and hovering in softer patches. They inhabit these zones with a hushed urgency supplied by the monochromatic incantations Cisneros delivers in his prophet from the desert twang. Divided up into 4 parts but essentially coming at you as one monolith there are extreme moments of rocking release and eloquent restraint. Engineered by Steve Albini (who also did the honors on their former band mate Matt Pike's latest High on Fire disc) this album is pure sonic pleasure. I'd advise everyone to reach deep inside and come up with their own singular vision. That's what Om has done here. They've given up the rewards of their quest for us to enjoy but don't stop there. Dig deeper. Feel strongly. Take chances. Lay your hands on your life and around your spirit. Try it a bit daily and you'll be well on your way with your own pilgrimage.