Music

Zomes: Time Was

Showcasing the elastic-textural vocals of Swedish artist Hanna, Time Was, the new Zomes LP, is both a reiteration of the past and a foray into slightly higher realms of pop accessibility.


Zomes

Time Was

US Release: 2013-04-02
Label: Thrill Jockey
UK Release: 2013-04-15
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

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". Remember those? Me neither... But seriously, for an artist known and revered for such willful reiteration (see: entire Lungfish discography), it's a little refreshing to witness his expansion from proper, one-man act to the freshly minted, Zomes-as-duo association. Showcasing the elastic-textural vocals of Swedish musician/artist, Hanna, Time Was, the new Zomes LP, is both a reiteration of the past and a foray into slightly higher realms of pop accessibility.

Allegedly meeting during a jam-sesh while on tour in Sweden, the two connected, with Hanna quickly positioning herself as a foil for Osborne's unwavering style. On paper it makes perfect sense. Whereas the "Zomes" intention is to flirt with a certain textural predictability, in turn, Hanna finds her voice more naturally -- like intuition funneled through a seemingly stream of consciousness vocal mechanism. This mishmash of ideas is exploited again and again on Time Was, as the two strike an honest balance stylistically but fail to deliver anything much more than fragmentary. Of course, that's not to suggest the music isn't more approachable (if not quite as elegant) than previous Zomes records, it is… but it also manages to sound totally thrown together.

Opening cut, "Loveable Heights", plays as both an introduction to the album and also to the pliable vocal prowess of its newest member. From the fairly straightforward verses, to the almost-Tibetan whispers and squeals of the structureless end -- as a pure "instrument", she does impress (her vocal textures revealing greater depth on subsequent listens). "Monk Bag" and the ensuing/somewhat foreboding, piano-dirge of "Silentium" follow a similar path, delivering elongated tonal meanderings of sound & voice. Admittedly, to the extent that any of these are found engaging is dependent upon one's uniquely refined taste, so to speak. This isn't music for the masses -- but rather, humble musings of unembellished sound.

Elsewhere, the stark title track, "Time Was" remains notable -- if for no other reason than via the use of its slight, but ever so carefully placed synth-squeals, and another suitably confident vocal from Hanna. "Cave Mountain Stream" bookends the LP with the duo's most fully realized, melodic moment (hey, this song has parts to it!) yet. "Look ahead look ahead / And then you see / The only one / The merciful", intones a reflective Hanna over a series of sustained key tones. It's a pretty moment and one that inspires genuine sentiment -- rarefied air for an album otherwise fit for disengagement.

Time Was, is an album that puts Zomes at a minor crossroads. While there's obvious potential in the Osborne-Hannah pairing, this ain't some kind of wild, Traveling Wilbury's collaboration, where the weight of expectation met sheer talent and spat out a winning record (at least their first one!). Okay, maybe that's unfair. Luckily for Osborne, his creations are but tiny post-rock experiments that aim for subtlety – not far reaching classic-pop. He's succeeded before (Earth Grid) and to an extent, does so here -- albeit in brief, foreshadowed glimpses of what could be. Ever so slightly, Osborne seems to be moving away from the wholly obscure, to a level of lo-fi minimalism more befitting of say, your average human. Hanna's beguiling vocals certainly help that cause… if that is indeed... "The" cause. You never know. Given his reputation for the avant-garde, the next Zomes record could amount to an endless drum loop, topped with dis-harmonic keystrokes -- as heard through the hole of a lone Edison phonograph. Hmm, now that actually sounds a little more interesting!

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.