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.