My Sleeping Karma – Atma (Album Review)

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Dreams of existential sorrow emerge.

Cultures have a tendency of being appropriated with the passage of time, be it the adoption of a modified Greek pantheon by the Romans, or the western world’s curious fascination of late with aspects of eastern culture, with an emphasis on that of Buddhism and Hinduism. Often times this will occur in a manner similar to patrons of a buffet while frequenting the salad bar, taking what one wishes and passing up on the rest. But every now and then there will be a number of individuals who take a more in depth interest in the object of their curiosity, or an elite group of food connoisseurs whom will take a bit of everything to close out the buffet analogy. One such fold that opts to get into the weeds in such a fashion is German-born instrumental psychedelic/post-rock trustees My Sleeping Karma, whom have been taking the proverbial deep dive into the various disciplines implied by their namesake since the mid-2000s with an eye for the musically nuanced and abstract.

Though always a band that has sought to communicate their elaborate message through a correspondingly involved and drawn out musical template minus any spoken or sung words, this quartet’s 6th and latest LP “Atma” (the Sanskrit word for essence/breath) proves to be a particularly poignant anthology of long-running atmospheric jam sessions. Drawing heavily from the turmoil of the past couple years, which involved a high level of personal stress among the band’s membership that nearly culminated in their dissolution, this auditory manifesto set to 6 extended chapters exudes a strong sense of existential concerns pertaining to fear, sickness and death that is dealt with from the vantage point of the Hindu view of the true individual essence/soul (which stands apart from the ego, mind and bodily existence). A tapestry of contrasting dynamics, timbers and colors paints this album, often blurring the lines between a textbook expression of post-rock and a more impact-based mode of hard rocking that is almost orthodox in character.

“Atma” Album Artwork

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this release is how artfully the concerns of the present are brought into synchronicity with the traditional doctrines of Hinduism, presenting a unique musical journey for all and a learning opportunity for the uninitiated. Beginning things on a sentimental yet calculated note, “Maya Shakti” (which denotes the influence of ignorance and relates to a low view of the material world) mixes a through-composed succession of melancholy and disquieted melodic motives via slow-evolving guitar riffs and haunting keyboard timbres that clocks just shy of 10 minutes and establishes a mood of sadness with occasional moments of anger. By contrast, the smooth and serene flow of “Prema” (the Sanskrit word for love/affection) sees a more consistently spacey and less impact-based progression through a slightly shorter duration, though the drum work does prove highly involved and the apex point with the guitars takes on a more metallic quality that almost resembles vintage Black Sabbath, underscoring the passion that often comes along with the generalized expression of love that is being signified.

As this album progresses, the message it conveys follows suit in a manner that one might liken to a process of philosophical/theological self-discovery. The infectious melodic contour and moderate stride of “Mukti” (meaning spiritual liberation) functions as a de facto banger for a band that would otherwise eschew the very concept, all while moving towards a resolution to the maze of discontent established at the beginning. Another long slough through the inward cosmos “Avatara” (pertaining to the manifestation of the deity in human, superhuman or animal form) brilliantly blends a dense ambient keyboard backdrop with a jazzy rocking groove that occasionally showcases flourishes of Deep Purple during their early 70s heyday. The darker and heavier side of the coin is given another go with “Pralaya” (relating to a time of catastrophe), almost to the point of crossing over into metallic territory and presenting a particularly agitated guitar performance. Things are then drawn to a close with “Ananda”, which also rocks a bit harder and dovetails with the psychedelic/stoner metal realm a bit while sonically vivifying the extreme state of happiness that the song title denotes in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

There are many ways that one could sum up this near 50-minute venture into the heavily abstract side of the post-rock coin, but the best word that ties it all together would be cathartic. Despite the songs being long-winded and relying heavily upon repetition and slow variation to get their points across, the album as a whole doesn’t feel like the colossally long affair that one might expect from a band seeking to teach a college level course via instrumental composition on the complex topic of Hindu theology. The only real flaw that lingers upon this highly ambitious undertaking is that the subject matter is fairly esoteric, and those whom have little interest in the topic of eastern mysticism may struggle to make sense of the implied personal odyssey that is being recounted from one song to the next. It’s a solid LP for those whom are already engrossed in the post-rock realm, but casual consumers of the art might find it a little challenging to truly comprehend

Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: August 5th, 2022
Genre: Psychedelic / Post-Rock / Space Metal

Order yourself a copy of “Atma” in any of the configurations detailed below by visiting here.

“Atma” is available in the following formats:

  • Digisleeve CD Edition
  • 1 LP Gatefold Black & 12 Page Booklet
  • 1 LP Gatefold & 12 Page Booklet Gold LTD 300 Copies
  • 1 LP Gatefold & 12 Page Booklet Transparent Turquoise Purple Splatter LTD 500 Copies
  • Vinyl Hardcover Book (1LP Gatefold CLEAR plus 10″ Vinyl Clear (2 Bonus Tracks) – 48 Page Booklet LTD 500 Copies
  • Digisleeve CD Edition & Canvas Edition (Napalm EU Only)
  • Digisleeve CD Edition & Shirt (Napalm EU Only)
  • Digital

“Atma” Tracklist:

1. Maya Shakti
2. Prema
3. Mukti
4. Avatara
5. Pralaya
6. Ananda

 

8.3 Great

Breaking with what might be considered a western stereotypical view of eastern mysticism as a stoic outlook, German post-rock trustees and students of Hinduism My Sleeping Karma present a grand musical expression of emotion, rooted in existential fear, betraying an all too human response to the societal tumult of the recent past

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8
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