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Om - Conference of the Birds

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Artist: Om

Album: Conference of the Birds

Label: Holy Mountain

Review date: May. 7, 2006

In Hinduism, “om” is the single most important syllable of existence, representing the confluence of deep sleep, dreams, and consciousness, and their mystic separation from the idea of the absolute which is beyond everyday human comprehension. There are also connections with the life cycle - the sound “om” being made of “a” which represents creation and Brahma, “u” which is Vishnu or the middle period of life, and “m” represents Shiva, whose meditation frees us from the concrete world. Om is a trinity, the exact components of which depend on which interpretation you’re using. I won’t pretend to be an expert in Hindu myth or meaning, but these basic tidbits are enough on their own to at least partially explain the sounds contained on Conference of the Birds. And while it may be mere coincidence that Om formed out of two thirds of Sleep (you could probably debate which two parts of the “om” Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius represent, but it would only make any sense if you were either a huge metalhead, a giant stoner, a Hindu scholar, or some combination of the three), the symbolic connection between the two in this context is too much to ignore. To get perhaps a bit too literal here, om is the step beyond sleep towards some kind of transcendence. Which isn’t to say that music of Om is any “deeper” or “more advanced” than that of Sleep, just that it operates on a different level with a different set of tools.

Conference of the Birds is structurally and sonically similar to its predecessor, Variations on a Theme – repeated bass licks and drum patterns that gradually evolve over the course of about 15 minutes. The second song (each song spans about 20 tracks, presumably to thwart piracy), “Flight of the Eagle,” could very easily be the fourth track on Variations both in character and in sound. Cisneros’ bass sound is dense and fuzzy and his vocals are an imposing chant musing on some mythic journey or battle occurring in ancient Egypt, while Hakius keeps a solid beat centered around his bell-like cymbal.

“At Giza,” on the other hand, represents a very different side of the group, one much closer to the concept of om than anything else they’ve done. Simply put, the music is much tauter than before, with less overall weight. The bass tone is clean, devoid of any distracting distortion, the drums are slower, more hypnotic, the vocals more an incantation than a chant, returning to words like “sentient,” “aperture,” and other archaic multisyllabics. And while the imagery is more an opium-den vision than a meditative dream, the words are there more as sounds and rhythm and quickly lose their meaning.

Whether you view it as stoner wisdom, opium hallucination, or mystic journey, this album is about transcendence. The Conference of the Birds is, amongst other things, a 12th century Sufi metaphysical parable on discovering the true nature of God, mimicking the journey of the avatar protagonist of both of Om’s songs. Farid ud-Din Attar’s poem comes to the conclusion that God is not to be found in a single place but all around, in every aspect of life and the world. So despite the fact that Om comes from the Hindu, references the Sufi, and uses the language of the Egyptian, they draw from each the same idea: that the world beyond the tactile is not that far away.

By Dan Ruccia

Other Reviews of Om

Variations on a Theme


God is Good

Advaitic Songs

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View all articles by Dan Ruccia

Find out more about Holy Mountain

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