Hailing from Amsterdam, duo Deutsche Ashram are Ajay Saggar on guitar and Merinde Verbeek on vocals. Whisper Om is the follow up to their 2016 album Deeper and Deeper. If at any point in your past (or present) you have found yourself in an alcoholic haze; mooching, shuffling, swaying or bouncing up and down with abandon at an Indie Disco then you are going to love this.
‘Stumbleweed’ is a great opening track with low-slung guitar and drum machine bursting forth from what sounds an army of wind-up toys. It’s dominated by a compelling guitar motif and Merinde’s adult-lullaby of a vocal line and it has the kind of driving beat that could make a Dervish whirl until they passed out. This sets out the genetic makeup of the album perfectly. Some songs, like ‘Glitterheap’ and ‘The Nude Dancers’ begin with soundscapes that sound like radio interference and it’s as if the band are trying to tune into the cosmos or break the spell of the mundane. There are also songs that begin with electrical arcs of guitar chords like ‘Leaf Cries Wolf’, ‘Slackjaw Refrain’, ‘Gripandstorm’ and ‘Chimes’ and I pictured a video with Ajay Sagger atop a glacier with windmill arms and a plectrum of pure ice while Merinde Verbeek freezes air with her high notes. But it’s the title track that surprises most; opening with looped tablas and tremolo guitar (evoking a spy-film set in Mumbai) with Verbeek’s voice skipping like a stone on water over the songs hypnotic judder. The idea of ‘Om’ as a chanted syllable has resonance with the atmosphere this album creates but it’s a higher plane of existence that also has boom-boom drum patterns and driving bass lines.
You don’t put this album on so much as fall down a rabbit hole into an alternate world of Escher staircases and ever-changing fractal patterns. Between Saggar’s wall-of-shimmer guitars and the childlike quality to Merinde Verbeek’s vocals it’s like being wrapped in a duvet of stars and then fired into your own psyche. If this is shoegaze (as most references to Deutsche Ashram assert) then these are shoes made of clouds, dreams and glistening optimism and even if they balk at such references they should take comfort in the fact that, rather than succumb to the soporific introspection of many of their peers, they bring a crisp take on the genre.
If you want to swim in the crystal clear glacial waters of Deutsche Ashram then they are on tour in the UK supporting Giant Drag at the end of January:
Jan 21 – Hotbox, Chelmsford
Jan 22 – Oslo Hackney, London
Jan 23- Thekla, Bristol
Jan 24 – The Cluny, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Jan 25 – The Bodega Social Club, Nottingham
Jan 26 – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Jan 28 – The Hug and Pint, Glasgow
Jan 29 – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Jan 30 – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Jan 31 – The Marina Fountain, Hastings
Review by Paul F Cook