Album Review: Ohmme Brings Harmony and Noise Together on Parts

When Ohmme, the duo of Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham, announced the release of Parts on Joyful Noise Recordings, it was impossible not to be excited. The pair have been putting on some of the best performances in Chicago for years and their self-titled EP has been a bright spot in the local music scene since way back when Ohmme was still called Homme. With Parts, Stewart and Cunningham deliver an album that not only lives up to expectations, but offers up a new direction to obsess over.

Ohmme’s sound has always battled between moments of serene beauty and spats of distorted noise. Parts embodies that battle across the entirety of its run time, within songs and the album as a whole. Certain songs feel more poppy and harmonious than anything they've ever done and still maintain that experimental edge somewhere between the melodies. Others jump into darkest recesses of engulfing noise they have cultivated with only a smattering of brightness finding its way in the song.

It’s what makes Parts so interesting and untimely enjoyable to experience. “Icon,” the first track and lead single, definitely finds itself in the more harmonious category. At first it sounds like the biggest leap from anything off their self-titled EP thanks to the bright guitars and an overall poppy atmosphere. But as the looping chords churn on past the duo’s infectious interlocking voices and chorus of “I want a new icon,” it starts becoming familiar. It feels almost like an evolution of their song “Woman,” diving head first into new realms while maintaining the connection to their inherent sound.

The balance between the old and new, the harsh and soft, is felt throughout Parts. "Grandmother" starts off kind and approachable before the driving guitars ramp things up and carry the rest of the songs into ever escalating heights. The instrumentals of "Left Handed" slink around some devilish lines ("Paint me a picture of all of your sins so I can get lost within"), jumping into almost psychedelic vibes towards its end.

Ohmme (Macie Stewart & Sima Cunningham) - Photo by Alexa Viscius

Some of the highest points on the album are when the songs dip a little further into their extremes, whether it's the moments of serenity or enjoyably harsh crashes. The title track "Parts" and "Liquor Cabinet" at times feel like they're going to fall into madness but never do. Opting instead to focus on its hypnotic aura. "Sentient Beings" brings a quiet and contemplative mood to the latter half of the album, brimming with poignant lyricism delivered with ethereal vocals led by Cunningham and backed by Stewart. It feels almost like a hazy lullaby as the song gently glides forward. The album closer "Walk Me" keeps up that feeling, mesmerizing you with its feelings of uncertainty even as the pair serenade you with the words "It's alright."

On the other side of the spectrum, the boisterous noises of "Water" and “Peach” are so loud and avant garde that they verge on brutal in their intensity. As the drums crash on top of the screeching guitars in both songs, the pair's graceful vocals shine through, sometimes gracefully and sometimes erratically, creating a welcome dissonance that demands repeated listens.

There isn’t a moment on the album where Stewart and Cunningham are resting on their laurels. Every strange noise and its conflicting companion results in otherworldly tracks that push past their already entrancing sound. Parts ultimately feels like a manic, yet meditative, journey that embraces all the potential Ohmme showed on their EP and sets the stage for more growth and evolution.

You can purchase Parts on Joyful Noise Recording or on Ohmme's webstore. Catch Ohmme this week as they start their tour at Thalia Hall on August 25th. They will be joined by The Hecks and VV Lightbody for an In The Round performance, a series where Thalia Hall places bands right in the center of the venue for a 360 experience. Tickets are still available, so get to this show!

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Julian Ramirez