Holy dread

Om, Middle East Upstairs, November 18, 2007
By JAMES PARKER  |  December 9, 2007
Al Cisneros and Chris Hakuis

In Reagan’s America, to generalize wildly, the music of cultural resistance was hardcore: shrill, witty, hasty, aimed straight at the forehead. In Bush World, for reasons I will leave to the socio-musicologists, the rebellion is downward-tending: the kids are hurling themselves into the low end, abandoning their intellects to a shadow-metal roar and a churning, tunneling mysticism. OM, the unbelievably intense unit comprising bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius (both formerly of stoner legends Sleep), are a sort of apocalyptic prayer machine, and this past Sunday at the Middle East upstairs they bulldozed a packed house into noise nirvana, and then beyond.

Earlier in the evening, the burly Jack Rose had beguiled us with a short set of his beautiful roots-raga acoustic plucking, and Grails, from Portland, Oregon, had laid down some heavy Can-meets-Godspeed atmospherics. But the dominance of OM was established in the instant that Cisneros stamped on his distortion pedal and feedback reared like a dragon behind him. The riffs are punishingly simple, on the bluesy side of Sabbath, but repeated until they detach themselves from time. Cisneros shudders, screams, puts his hands together in prayer: Hakius, shirtless and mega-bearded, plays as if he were chopping wood, but with a Bonham-esque lilt in the clang of his ride cymbal. Their shared concentration looks at times like the fiercest face of worship.

The night ended, appropriately enough, in chaos: OM wouldn’t stop, houselights shuddered on and then off again, attempts were made to eject the audience, and a Middle East management unwilling to interfere in the raptures of a too-high-to-die Al Cisneros could only stand by as he defied the curfew with rants, chants, stop-start riffs, and a big joint billowing the smoke of the assassins. For a moment or two, all sorts of things seemed possible, and bouncers twitched as the air adrenalized around them. A riot in the nervous system, on the point of being a riot for real.

  Topics: Live Reviews , Al Cisneros, Jack Rose, OM,  More more >
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