No less than seven years have passed through the fingers of the German quartet My Sleeping Karma since their previous studio album, Moksha. Nearly a third of their already long career, carried out at the same time with an unchanged line-up; seven years marked by recent events that we know only too well, in addition to more personal ordeals whose details belong only to them. Work on Atma began in 2017, but the difficulties were such that the members even feared that their musical adventure would end for good. This exit is for them a form of relief, the crystallization of an entity which it was not given in advance that it would see the light of day, and it matters little to them, deep down, whether success is there or no: it will only be a bonus.
The title of the album refers to the “self”, the essence of our spirit, perceived as indestructible, eternal – a concept often bundled in the term “soul”. Perhaps the band wishes in this way to celebrate the capacity for resilience that they have finally been able to show, but it can also be seen as a vindication of the hovering, almost transcendental characteristics of their music. The melodies here are generally classy but also a little threatening: everything seems vulnerable and sends us back to our own weaknesses. Each track is an embroidered tapestry, which reveals arabesques in an almost fractal way when you stick your ear to them. It may seem strange to talk about attention to detail for a music that relies so much on patterns and their repetition (and the fact of revisiting them), and yet… Even the most minimalist parts (intro of “Prema”) have received great attention. The slightest arpeggio resounds in the four corners of the room, without however being able to detect the slightest overflow of effects, and the production highlights the vibratory character of the instruments, guiding the waves to the deepest of our body. Sober but effective rolls of drums punctuate the whole and break the monotony (“Pralaya”). On “Mukti”, certain passages take on a costume of electronic music à la Carbon Based Lifeforms, between the waves of riffs. Atma can ultimately be appreciated just as much by letting itself float as by giving great headbutts as if we were dealing with something infinitely more brutal than this album really is. A music, in short, both ambient and catchy.
My Sleeping Karma loses us (and this is a compliment here) without the proposed patterns evolving beyond measure; instead, members operate incremental additions of components. We can see in these repetitions and other flashbacks a representation of the fact that we must persevere, try again several times, to overcome obstacles – obstacles that very often reside within ourselves. Each attempt is more assured, more incisive than the previous one. The guitars are transformed into tools suitable for dissecting the spirit of the artists as well as that of their public. We have here, perhaps even more than in the past, a distant cousin of Monkey3 with more mystique. My Sleeping Karma thus claims a hypnotic character rather than betting everything on psychedelia.
The images that come to mind tend to escape physical dimensions: more than landscapes, one perceives decorations painted by means of light and energy. A bit like those civilizations which, in certain works of science fiction, leave the material plane at the twilight of their long evolution to reach a higher state, by “sublimation”, finding refuge in the folds of invisible dimensions with inextricable implications. As such, the keyboards are sometimes very “Encounters of the third type” (“Ananda”)… Atma, however, does without esoteric chants such as Moksha or Satya gave us to hear. We can of course always play at looking for oriental influences and other exotic images in these tunes, but nothing obliges us to do so; these aspects do not represent the keystone of the album.
Atma takes enough of the existing to lure its audience, and applies some stylistic particularities (with flagrant passion, although less ardor than on Moksha) to make something, if not completely new, at least interesting. There’s no denying, however, that the constraints have made this album a little stiffer – or let’s say “wise” – than its predecessors, although it seeks, and to some extent succeeds, in casting a wide net. Although, in the eyes of the group, Atma is their darkest work to date, inspired and marked by “death, fear and disease”, it delivers a significant amount of beauty and hope. Let’s hope now that this outing will ratify in this formation the stability that it almost lost during this long gestation.
Video clip of the song “Mukti”:
Video clip of the song “Prema”:
Album Atmareleased on July 22, 2022 through Napalm Records. Available for purchase here