Om

support Papir + Mythic Sunship
author AP date 31/07/19 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Showery weather is doing its best to make things miserable, but the intermittent downpours have not yet succeeded in driving people away from the jampacked urban garden (Byhaven) at Pumpehuset when I arrive at 18:00. The crowd is here to watch some of the most exciting psychedelic rock acts in the Danish scene right now, and to warm up for the festivities that are set to take place inside the venue a little later, with the Oakland, CA-based stoner metal trio Om at the helm. As cocktails, organic lagers and glasses of natural wine are flying over the counters of the two bars outside, the first artist of the night — Mythic Sunship — make an unceremonious entrance and start conjuring up mind-altering sounds.

All photos courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution


Mythic Sunship

The sound of this Copenhagen-based outfit has been described as “the ethos of free jazz in a doom setting”, and while there is nothing very doomy about the jams we get to hear tonight, the part about jazz does make sense. After the quartet has fallen into a groove and made any aspiring musicians in attendance green with envy by fielding their instruments with such skill and functioning so symbiotically as a unit, you notice that the music borders on improvisational at times. Guitarists Emil Thorenfeldt & Kasper Stougaard Andersen move from one kaleidoscopic solo to another, constantly switching the leading role between them, as Rasmus Christensen & Frederik Denning (on bass guitar & drums, respectively) lay down a hypnotising rhythmic foundation in which iteration is king. The songs themselves — if one can even call these sessions songs — are easy to lose yourself in, and they seem to have that effect on the four musicians as well; their gazes are firmly fixed on either the floor or their instruments and their movement is limited to subtle swaying as they traverse through their musical creations. Apart from a shy “Thanks…!”, there is not a lot of interaction happening between the individual tracks either, rendering Mythic Sunship’s performance a quite distant and perhaps even challenging affair for those not predisposed to psychedelic music. The gig does grow pretty repetitive in spots too, with really only the climaxes standing out from a set that threatens to become a little too lounge-like here and there. The concert ends on a high note though, to the tune of a bouncier, more driving piece, which instigates a bit of hip movement amongst the audience and serves as a good segue into Papir’s looming set.

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Papir

In terms of the physical performance, Papir is not very different to Mythic Sunship; guitarist Nicklas Sørensen & bassist Christian Becher Clausen face each other off across the centre of the stage, lost in their own world and letting their instruments do the talking while paying the audience no mind whatsoever. But the music strikes me as more diverse, incorporating a handful of outside influences like krautrock and post-rock into their psychedelic core and dividing their set into clearly distinguished songs. Mind you, the music is no less experimental than that of Mythic Sunship. There is a red thread running through the set in which Clausen is placed in the spotlight where his creative basslines deserve to be, while Sørensen seemingly improvises melodies and sounds on top of them using his pedalboard very liberally. Drummer Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen completes the palette with jazzy percussion to produce material that fits perfectly with the scent of weed that lingers in front of the stage. And where Mythic Sunship tends to remain in lighter and more traditionally psychedelic terrain, some of the tracks by Papir contain barrages of heavy riffage that might even do a band such as Sleep proud. The last song of the evening is a good example; it has the three musicians alternating between twinkly space melodies and moments that garner a headbanging response from the audience. Unfortunately a nagging bout of rain exactly in the middle of Papir’s concert puts a dampener on what could otherwise have been a euphoric performance — but still, if there are any people attending tonight who are not yet familiar with the Copenhagen-resident trifecta, the band can be sure to have earned a number of new fans.

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Om

Since 2018, Al Cisneros has been preoccupied with the return of Sleep to active duty, so it is something of a rare and coveted treat that the iconic bassist/vocalist has brought his second project Om to Denmark. As expected, the venue is thus at maximum capacity this evening and bristling with excitement about the slabs of meditative stoner doom Cisneros and his cohorts — keyboardist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & drummer Emil Amos — are about to unload onto us. Om’s droning take on the genre has always struck me as unique, and when “Gethsemane” off the trio’s latest album (2012’s “Advaitic Songs”) is let loose, my impression remains unchanged. The experience of watching Om perform that song enveloped by dim blue lighting must be akin to immersion in a sensory deprivation tank, with the shamanic percussion of Amos, the spacey effects supplied by Lowe, and the atavistic bass riffs and mantric singing from Cisneros melting together into music that sounds quite spiritual, transcendental even. The sonic weight of Sleep may have bled into Om’s repertoire, too, but as the double feature “Cremation Ghat I” & “II” (taken from 2009’s “God is Good”) proves, it is not from heaviness the appeal of this music is built, but from the intense atmosphere conjured and kept alight by ritualistic vocal samples, hollow strokes of snare drum, and riffs that seem to go in maddening circles.

The ideas Cisneros deploys with Om are indeed of an iterating nature, but that does not mean they are basic; “Thebes” is delivered to us in staggeringly heavy rendition, yet it is not the density of it that leaves the audience spellbound — it is Cisneros’ awe-inspiring prowess with a bass guitar and his penchant for transforming an essentially spartan track into a monolith of psychedelic music. I have always been a strong proponent of guitar as the lead instrument in rock and metal, but the thick-gauge bass riffs in that song cut through flesh and bone and rattle me like a marionette in a way no six-string ever could, and once a short break arrives in which to reflect in its wake, I decide to exorcise that prejudice of mine once and for all. All hail the bassist! The concert winds to a conclusion with the onset of “Meditation Is the Practice of Death”, and despite this concert taking place midweek, it feels like no one is ready to release himself from the séance yet. On some of the other evenings on this tour, “Bhima’s Theme” off 2008’s “Pilgrimage” has been included on the setlist, but it is absent here much to my and it looks like everyone else’s dismay, introducing a tiny hiccup to an otherwise excellent show. I savour every moment of it knowing chances to experience Om live are not nearly as frequent as they should be.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Gethsemane
  • 02. State of Non-Return
  • 03. Sinai
  • 04. Cremation Ghat I
  • 05. Cremation Ghat II
  • 06. Thebes
  • 07. Meditation Is the Practice of Death

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