Verma in action Credit: Desislav Iliev

You can be forgiven for not knowing that psychedelic spell casters Verma have a new album coming out tomorrow. Because they’re a Chicago band, you’d expect to be alerted to such a development by the appearance of a release party on the calendar of a local venue—but Verma don’t have any shows lined up at all. The reason for that is pretty simple: late this summer bassist Rob Goerke moved to Los Angeles, where former member TJ Tambellini has lived for a few years now.

Organist and violist Whitney Johnson, guitarist Johnny Caluya, and drummer Zach Corn remain in Chicago, and Johnson is quick to assure me that Verma hasn’t broken up—in fact, they aren’t even on hiatus. They still plan to tour with Goerke in support of their new LP, as well as play release shows in Chicago and LA. It’s just not entirely clear yet when those things will happen.

Chicago label Trouble in Mind is putting out the new record, Mul.Apin, just as it did last year’s Sunrunner (and the recent second album from Johnson’s side project Matchess, called Somnaphoria). It’s Verma’s seventh release and fourth full-length since their formation in 2010, at least if you count full-lengths the way Trouble in Mind does. It’ll be vinyl only, and each LP comes with a download code.

Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is the video premiere of “Elil.Sa.Ursag / Hero’s.Theme,” the second song from Mul.Apin. It’s driven by the same combination of restless, almost compulsive energy and trancelike stasis that characterizes much of Verma’s output. Delicately simmering ride cymbal and propulsive, syncopated snare drum ride atop a steady 4/4 kick, while a droning buzz of guitar cloaks a simple, pulsing bass riff—just three different notes in eight beats. At first Johnson’s keyboards carry the track’s dilated, slow-motion melody, their tone gleaming but faraway, like glass towers seen through heat haze. After the three-minute mark, Caluya’s guitar takes over as the lead voice, adding syrupy, lyrical layers that swarm with sitarlike overtones. The drums eventually get a little louder and busier toward the end, but the bass? The bass literally never changes.

Johnson tells me the aerial desert footage in the video for “Elil.Sa.Ursag / Hero’s.Theme” was shot by a remote-controlled drone near Joshua Tree. Tambellini (who also contributes to Mul.Apin) and Goerke collaborated with filmmaker Mike Ruggirello on the clip. I’m especially intrigued by what appears to be an enormous hillside glyph made from a mosaic of large flat stones. As befits the work of a band trying so hard to create a pure and total emptiness—a sort of meditative stillness in the midst of frenzy—the glyph looks a lot like one of the symbols for the null set.

I strongly suspect the glyph has been added to the footage digitally, but I’m not savvy enough about filmmaking technology to tell for sure. I didn’t ask the band, though, because I wanted to preserve the mystery for another day or two at least.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.