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OM God Is Good / Drag City

OM, God Is Good

If you're already a fan of Om you might be shocked at how short this record is. It clocks in at something like 35 minutes (the opening track "Thebes" takes up almost half that), which in no way compares to the sprawling, meditative work that Al Cisneros composed on Om's 2005 Variations on a Theme or the 2006 Conference of the Birds. With a pummeling yet hypnotic bass and drums attack, Cisneros and former drummer Chris Hakius carved out a very specific space for themselves within the metal realm (be it black metal, instrumental, speed, stoner or avant-doom) and delivered an intensity that other groups with twice the number of players simply could not match.

On the new Drag City release God Is Good, the sharp interaction between Cisneros and new drummer Emil Amos benefit from the production of Steve Albini (he recorded Om's 2007 Pilgrimage), and it's clear from the album's packaging лл three out of four photos feature the two band members and Albini лл that Om wants us to understand that this is a collaborative effort. Not a bad situation. Albini has long been revered (or vilified, depending on where your ears are) for simply capturing what is there. Amos is definitely an adventurous drummer, opting for more freeform jazz fills and dubbed-out Lee Perry rolls than his predecessor Hakius' washing cymbal work and unobtrusive style. Add Cisneros' monklike chanted vocal style to the rumbling drone and the results can be transcendent.

Considering this formula works so well, it's curious that Om has decided to complicate the sound on God Is Good. After the nearly 20-minute workout of "Thebes" we are left with the relatively brief "Meditation Is the Practice of Death" and "Cremation Ghat I and Cremation Ghat II." Contributions from talented guests like multi-instrumentalists Rob Lowe (Lichens) and Lorraine Rath and an uncredited cellist only seem to clutter the proceedings. It's always admirable when artists take risks and stretch out from their respective comfort zones, and the temptation to use all available tools in the studio can prove difficult to ignore. In Om's particular case addition only leads to subtraction. What Om does best is traffic in expansive, meditative sounds. And meditation is best achieved through simplicity.

лл J.R. Robinson