|Release||Conference Of The Birds|
|Release Date||February 24, 2006 (CD); April 17, 2006 (Vinyl)|
This review is in observance of the tenth anniversary of Conference of the Birds. The CD edition was originally released on February 24 but the vinyl was on April 17.
So last year I wrote an anniversary review on OM's debut album "Variations on a Theme" and admittedly I was at the time joyous over the album and still am now. This time the natural follow-up would come with their seminal sophomore effort "Conference of the Birds" (Taking the title from lengthy Persian poem of a flock of birds seeking out a king but in end finding their enlightenment in one own reflection). There's no real wording around how much I like the band at this point so admittedly I was hyped. One trip to Ear X-Tacy in 2006 led me and a close friend to a day of album shopping, with the goal of buying one album each. He opted for the band Say Anything, largely due to personal tastes and more importantly his girlfriend liking the band. I opted for Conference. The drive home we split listens of the record. We got to about the first ten minutes of Conference before we switched to the indie pop whatever that was Say Anything. I dropped him off citing a false excuse of errands and went for a real joyride.
Thirty-three minutes later I was floored, rattled and ready to listen all over again. Right from the get-go this album was phenomenal.
Rather than open right off with a wall of sound Conference of the Birds begins somewhat gentle and groovy, locking in a fuzz-free bass rhythm and Chris Hakius' driving drums to match it. It teeters on psychedelic, funk and hints of Pink Floyd but with just two instruments. Eventually the song shifts into a slower tempo, teasing and welling at a build up as Al Cisneros' vocals sing along to the busy groove but rise up as if in a deep trance. Seamlessly traveling between tempos before the bass emits a clockwork "tick, tock" amidst silence. Light cymbals and snare join in as the rhythm expands into a jam that left my head nodding and my friend abruptly hitting eject to hear his new favorite band. But on the second (And proper, on the road with maximum volume) listen this progression takes it's journey. Those who've heard the first album know heaviness is coming but the wait nears it's end when the bass' tone gets fuzzier for just a tease.
One final Cisneros verse with bass driving along more intently, building upwards into transcendence. The journey is nearing it's end, more obvious with this section roughly twelve minutes in.
And then the arrival.
The build-up was expected to be heavy but the ending section to "At Giza" just feels like a rewarding climax to a wonderfully different tune with the bass "soloing" at parts, giving off the sense it could go literally forever rather than the limitations of recording leaving it at a short, lean 15:55. At Giza has hints of early with prog with the constant changes but hints of post-rock with explosive heavy from light grooves.
"Flight of the Eagle" is more akin to the OM listeners are used to with the bass emitting like a colossus and a more straightforward approach. Cisneros' stoned monotonoe voice almost akin to meditative chant paints the tale of flight and journey towards enlightment. The song takes it's journey and never looks back, battering with a thick wall and accentuating the same meditation akin to the thematic of the band. It feels consistent but the subtle changes are there among the hypnotic atmosphere of the tune.
OM's heavy grooves are in full force with Cisneros' bass abridging into an even more intense form of music upon the lyrics "And return to mountain screen / Absorptions infinite rays.", the music taking a more "up" tempo amidst a massive down-tuned fuzz before letting a sea of drone awash with only Cisneros' voice and Hakius' drums filling out the vibrations. This ensues a wild instrumental break with Hakius being rather explosive on the drums and Cisneros going all out on his Rickenbacker. Slowing down to the same vibration drone before exploding again, following this pattern twice more into the song's final stage, a driving jam reprising the initial verses of the song before an eventual bass crash to finish at 17:27.
...And that's it! The whole album is two songs. Thirty-three minutes and twenty-five seconds in just two songs. You need nothing else! You literally need nothing else!!
To get personal, my first listen of Conference of the Birds was on the road on a journey clearing my mind and that could not have been a more perfect experience. Having the album on the maximum volume may have helped but at any volume it sounds loud, intense and sublime. The joyride kept going on a second listen and I was utterly hooked. OM became one of my favorite bands on the spot even more so and just left me in awe and speechlessness, hard to pinpoint and in essence sounding "unique". Seeing them do this live only added to the experience.
Not too much unlike my Distant Revisitation of "You Are There" I felt "Conference of the Birds" was a perfect 10, utterly flawless. Time has only been kinder as it still holds up as a perfect dose of trance-like heaviness with the perfect length. Though I love Variations on a Theme I always felt 45 minutes was a bit much. Yet at the same time I was shocked when I found out they made songs under ten minutes (Mainly two songs from the same session, "Bedouin's Vigil" and "Rays To the Sun (To The Shrinebuilder)")! Even as the band's sound would expand further with Pilgrimage and take a deeper, more layered shift with "God Is Good" and "Advaitic Songs" it's always Conference of the Birds I consistently return to. No doubt it's my favorite OM album and possibly even one of my favorite albums of all time.
Let the album take you on a journey. It was the perfect soundtrack to mine at the time.
Highest possible recommendation.