“We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the Gods discovered.
Now what may foeman’s malice do to harm us? What, O Immortal, mortal man’s deception?” – Rigveda (8.48.3, tr. Griffith)
I had a busy shift at the bar – it doesn’t happen often but it does happen – and the following day involved a tournament to prepare for. Frantic cleaning to prepare the club for the impending arrivals and I get the dreaded phone call: my relief is to be late, unpaid overtime imminent. This tragic set of circumstances had a knock on effect, but as I watch my bus fly past me and the usual annoying preacher try to hand me his latest brand of flyer detailing how I’m going to burn in hell lest I repent, all I can do is smile unfazed. I feel untouchable, not through strength but through simply being calm. For the past four years ‘My Sleeping Karma’ have specialised in exactly this kind of mood music; their instrumental, psychedelic, stoner, zen-like, Indian-folk-inspired post-rock, and despite making their debut major label album – their third overall – they’ve lost none of their abilities.
It would be easy for an artist who have come across a unique sound to simply stick to what they know; to not mess around with it, but it takes a bold one to constantly push forward, ever seeking to improve on what path they laid out before them. With this, not only have they managed to best previous efforts but they’ve added definition and clarity, but to truly understand how, you really need to dig a little deeper into what it’s all about. Soma is written in ancient Hindu texts as a drink consumed by the gods, granting immortality to all those who choose to consume it and follow their path. Made from an indiginous plant, various forms of it are still consumed today, but as time has progressed the true method and even the species of plant has been lost to the depths of time. All that’s known is that it possesses calming and (likely) hallucinogenic properties. Therein lies the journey to be undertaken; the quest to find the Soma, each track corresponding to one potential answer; one potential plant to drank deeply from in our journey for inner peace. No two trips quite alike, each epic, swirling, hallucinogenic voyage with it’s own distinct flavour and every other track a refresher for your musical pallette, preparing you for the next attempt in your quest for enlightenment.
With Soma they might have struck upon the perfect concept for their brand of music, but simultaneously they’ve been forced to create their most ambitious effort to date in order to do it justice, and with music such as is this it’s not enough to simply go ‘more;’ you can’t simply add more notes, more drum fills, be more psychedelic, play quicker or with more energy. To do so would betray the entire ideology of the concept; it would defeat the point of the album. The improvements they’ve made is not in doing more but in doing it subtly; to use their three pronged attack of guitar, bass and drums to create a shifting atmospheric landscape that builds in intensity without you even noticing.
The guitars take strong influences from the folk of the region in carving the most prominent melodies in each track, producing zen like rhythms that remain repetitive but somehow never boring, inexplicably varying throughout the tracks length; the rapid familiarity giving the listener a lifeline to prevent them from getting too lost within its depths. Drums gradually rise in prominence and intensity; simple beats come further forward and deliver a flurry of notes, raising the energy of the piece in a manner you won’t notice until it’s already arrived, and as quickly as they came it all soon disappears. Bass notes don’t just form complementary harmonies but swell in thickness; more than just another melody to be heard but felt resonating throughout the piece, and each element rises and falls as one.
It’s not just the manner they play that they draw attention to but the volume as well sees creative use, gradually getting louder and more overpowering, the music growing in speed and intensity only to have it come crashing down again – or indeed the opposite, have it gradually fade away only to suddenly strike you once again, delivering another hit on your psychedelic journey. The combination of all three is intoxicating and rich, flowing through you, swathing you as it sends you soaring. This isn’t music to put on in the background but music to lie down to, eyes closed, and to absorb, meditatively permitting it’s calming effect to take hold. True spiritual enlightenment may be a lofty aim for any artist, but if you permit them, My Sleeping Karma make a phenomenal start in guiding you on your path.
The Ferret’s Soma: Ephedra
About the Author
Position: Reviewer, Ranter, Reluctant Co-Editor
Location: London, England
Genre Preferences: Progressive, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Technical, Djent, Trad, Black
Favourite Artists: Adagio, Anthem, Baroness, Chthonic, Death Angel, Decadence, Fjoergyn, Gargoyle (Jpn), Haken, Kalevala, Leprous, Lucifugum, Pin-Up Went Down, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, Project Hate MCMXCIX, Redemption, Sigh, Sikth, Tesseract, Thy Catafalque, Von Hertzen Brothers, Zigoku Quartet
Having held an internet presence using this alias for over a decade now, odds are if you've come across the name in the past it was myself. As for my musical history I suppose it's appropriate to say I arrived on my obsession backwards, for years holding little more than disdain and derision for a genre so seemingly obsessed with pointless brutality over composition; the likes of Deftones, Korn and Slipknot that serves as an introduction for so many flooding my musical palette, deterring my interests and yielding my only interpretation of what the genre involved. Ironically, it was Cannibal Corpse's “Vile” that first corrected me; played at high volume at a youth club by an elder metal fan angrily pushing the bleeding ears of the Green Day fans away from the stereo. I left that day clutching borrowed copies of Children of Bodom's “Hatebreeder,” the aforementioned Cannibal Corpse album, Metallica's “Cunning Stunts” on VHS and a whole new musical interest.
Arriving at a number of forums, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge, progressing through the stages of opinionated idiot to an arrogant elitist on a crusade before finally calming down, chronicling the last four years of my journey of discovery with self-published reviews. In the decade since my initial discovery, my tastes have mellowed and expanded to encompass most of the metal genre and beyond, constantly in search of something new and exciting, always seeking to expand my own musical knowledge. Black Metal with a Didgeridoo? Death Metal Disco? Trance Metal? Sign me up. I also have a strange obsession regarding the music of Asia, but I can't explain that one.
I have long since devoted far too much of my time writing - much to the amusement of my family who note the science-obsessed child now does far more writing than the English Lit. student - and have been self-publishing reviews since 2008; archives of music reviews can be found here and Film can be found here, though since joining Axis both have largely become defunct. I'm a keen globetrotter and, too, document my travels here, on an old blog originally designed to publish a novel that was abandoned due to time constraints.