Review via by Rob Batchelor at Beard Rock
I’m stuck in motorway traffic and the rain is absolutely pouring. I’m tired, trying to work the fucking sat nav, and I realise that I couldn’t be more ready for this gig. I need an experience, maaan. Something transcendental. I put on God is Good, Om’s 2009 release, and start to relax a little bit. Then on finding a cheap carpark really close to what I think is probably the venue, I relax a bit more. Then, as I pay to display, I can hear Om soundchecking. From the car park. A street or two over. My trousers expand a little bit and I think to myself, “This is going to be good”.
I’d heard great things about tonight’s support, Ore – the self-described “doom tuba” band whose debut performance was at last year’s Supersonic festival which, regrettably, I missed. The fact that they were on the bill tonight meant that for once I could be excited about the opening act, which is a rare thing. My first gig was Queens of the Stone Age, with Sparta as support, and the horror of seeing such a terrible band has instilled a fear of support acts somewhere deep inside me. But how could Ore be anything but phenomenal, being “doom tuba”?
The venue, which was completely new to me, is tiny. It consists of a merch table, a bar, the stage, and not much else. Basically it’s perfect for such an intimate, insular, organic act as Ore. Stuart Estell and Sam Underwood emerge silently from the back, take hold of these giant instruments and, facing each other, gently manipulate the sounds that emanate from these giant brass shells with FX pedals at their feet. At one point, I believe I heard feedback. From a tuba.
The effect was incredibly calming, and sounded a lot like a more organic, less manipulated version of Sunn O))), or like LaMonte Young got swallowed by a whale. The very act of playing the tubas seemed like a wrestling match, with one player, then the other occasionally having to stop to empty the saliva that had gathered in the valve at the bottom – something we all have to do occasionally. One of my favourite aspects of their music is that the breaths that both players have to take to play the things resemble extremely minimalist percussion. Ore were phenomenal, and their just-released EP Beyond Tree and Stone is available for £3 from here – I downloaded my copy, and I suggest you do the same.
Ore finished, cleared away, then Om began. I’d heard on Twitter that they’d be joined onstage by Lichens (Robert A.A. Lowe), a de-facto third member who has contributed since God is Good. He is also a sort of musical superhero who, judging by his performance with Al Cisneros and Emil Amos, is musically capable of anything. he supplied wordless vocal lines, guitars when guitars were needed, tambourine, organ, often all at the same time. At one point he was singing, playing the organ and tapping the tambourine on his back, in some audio reverie.
They started with ‘Sinai’, from their newest album Advaitic Songs. It’s one of their more mellow songs, and segued with Ore’s subsonic whale song nicely. They didn’t venture farther back than their Pilgrimage material, presumably to take full advantage of having Lichens there with them. ‘Meditation is the Practice of Death’ and ‘Cremation Ghat I&II’ both sounded much more intense live than on record; Amos’s drum attack really comes through when he sat about ten feet from your face. ‘State of Non-Return’, one of my favourite tracks from Advaitic Songs, became much more hypnotic and pounding in the tiny room, and in a live setting the driving fuzz of the Cisneros bass cuts through trousers like a hot knife through shit. The song built nicely, starting the work that Gebel Barkal carried on and, after a quick nod to Tony Iommi and a promise to return soon, they plowed into what is probably their heaviest song, ‘Bhima’s Theme’. The whole room was left vibrating and on a higher plane, with just enough balls left (after tripping the rest) to get home. If Om play your town, you go. If you live in Birmingham and you weren’t there last night, then shame on you. Go buy Advaitic Songs, and repent.