Zomes' 'Near Unison' dabbles in beat-oriented minimalism, drawn-out drones

City Paper

Zomes has been the primary project of Lungfish guitarist Asa Osborne since 2008, but four albums and five years later it became a two-piece with Swedish singer Hanna Olivegren. The story goes that the two met in 2012 at a music festival in Sweden through a friend in the experimental rock band Skull Defekts—which, interestingly enough, now employ the services of Lungfish frontman/shaman Daniel Higgs. Olivegren began improvising vocal parts over Osborne’s droning synth compositions, and they quickly realized they were musically simpatico, leading to more performances together and the first Zomes album as a duo, 2013’s “Time Was.” The improvisational aspect of that initial encounter comes through in those songs, with Olivegren’s singing floating in and out of Osborne’s fuzzy clamor, sometimes serving as a melodic accompaniment and other times working as something of a vocal counterweight.

However, their latest album, “Near Unison,” out June 23, feels a bit more taut, like they’re aiming for something that structurally coheres a bit closer to pop. That becomes immediately clear on opener ‘Beckoning Breeze’ as Osborne loops a drum machine beat and the tones of what sounds like a horror movie soundtrack organ, upon which Olivegren lays down a lullaby of da-da-das. But these parts feel and sound much more complementary, and it’s an incredibly beautiful song as a result. The next track, ‘Fieldplay,’ is even tighter, with a more mystic quality that comes off as something of a Celebration-Beach House hybrid. A particular highlight is ‘Kaleidoscope of Sound,’ which is just as the title sounds—Osborne’s whirring tones and Olivegren’s fluttering vocal bleeding into each other and creating a swirling symbiosis that is achingly pretty.

Osborne and Olivegren dabble in an array of arrangements throughout the course of “Near Unison,” as diverse as the drawn-out drones of ‘Se Genom Tiden’ and the more minimal, beat-heavy ‘Simian Mother.’ That span of ideas makes “Near Unison” feel a little loosely tied together as an album, but there’s little doubt that creative instincts that brought about this collaboration are paying off.

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