Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Post-Rock, Experimental Rock, Post-Minimalism
One crucial aspect of abstract art is its ability to play with iterations of mass and lightness, and the fact that one can visually “fill in” the missing pieces of a textural field. Take, for example, the effect relaxed eyes have on a Mark Rothko painting, in which closely-valued hues become one gauzy sheen or, even more interestingly, the shaped canvases of Frank Stella’s early- to mid-60s work, in which cutaway sections volley between fullness and absence. The experience of Asa Osborne’s essentialist analog keyboard music as Zomes is an auditory variant of this phenomenon; as guitarist and instrumental architect for the Baltimore band Lungfish, he crafted dense and majestic music with a trance-like and often rhythmically complex imprint.
As a solo project for former Lungfish member Asa Osborne, Zomes albums consisted of mostly instrumental drones and overlapping cyclical themes, often recorded at home on garbled cassette tapes. Third proper full-length Time Was changed all that dramatically with a few key factors. The group both expands to a duo and to include a focus on vocals with the addition of Swedish singer Hanna Olivegren.
Contemplating the worth of a band like Zomes is a bit like critiquing, say, one of Barnett Newman’s Color Field painting’s—you either get it, or you don’t. The sole creation of ex-Lungfish guitarist and post-rock minimalist guru, Asa Osborne, Zomes has been prevalent since 2008—though most recently heard on 2012’s Improvisations (Thrill Jockey). Featuring model scales, droning synths and a minimalistic production sense (he recorded 2011’s Earth Grid entirely on cassette tape), his oft-meditative works are the perfect candidates for late-night college radio sessions and/or pre-hipster-era “noise parties”.
As a duo, Zomes is the musical equivalent of love at first sight. Asa Osborne created minimalistic ambience with a cassette recorder, electronic instrumentals that felt empty despite an ominous lo-fi aesthetic. Hanna Olivegren had a misty, angelic voice. When the two met at a Swedish musical festival last year, it only made sense that they fell into a collaborative partnership — her filling out his sound.