Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart are old friends, born-and-raised Chicagoans, and multi-talented musicians. As Ohmme, accompanied by subtle-to-perfection drummer Matt Carroll, they make music that depends on these bonds, with sounds built around guitar-driven experimentation and some of the most exquisite vocal harmonies in indie rock today.
The first notes of the group’s new Fantasize Your Ghost roll in like a guitar-powered perpetual motion machine, wistful, droning spirals and melancholy chords. When Cunningham and Stewart start to sing, it is sublime, a gently flowing fog of illusions and uncertainties that crystallizes in a dagger-sharp, united refrain (“Your whole vision’s not enough”) that sweeps away, for a moment, the sonic ephemera.
Textures continue to change throughout Fantasize Your Ghost. Cunningham and Stewart embrace an ever-shifting aesthetic and a DIY ethos throughout the album, each piece contributing to a patchwork of truly novel sounds. Even nostalgia takes on a distinctly new quality for Ohmme, whose interpretations of the past and the inward are utterly fresh. “Selling Candy”, with its retrospective lyrics and garage rock riffs, is probably the most familiar-sounding track here. Even so, it’s unlike other indie tracks thanks to peerless vocal harmonies that rise to angelic heights and its gradual unraveling from chaotic climax to deconstructed finish.
The deep grooves and existential musings of “Ghost” are each simultaneously catchy and haunting (“You had a notion to keep killing time / But the clock is a wreck, and you’ve already died”), the two poles bridged by intermittent squeals of freeform guitar noise. “The Limit” follows suit at a slower pace, its desperation underscored by the stark placement of the duo’s tense vocals far in front of their mellow guitars and drums.
Symphonic allusions via violin embellishments translate hosts of small issues into the overwhelming despair of a crumbling relationship on “Spell It Out”: “There’s dirty dishes in the sink / I’m trying not to care / Whatever happened to you wanting to be there?” On “Twitch”, they add to an airy sense of contemplation over a case of ennui. Energy builds in the metric shifts that drive “3 2 4 3” forward to its sudden stop, leaving space for the soothing monophony that starts “Some Kind of Calm”, which shimmers, spellbinding in simplicity.
Instrumental piece “Sturgeon Moon”, a loose improvisation, roils atonally from start to finish. Convention returns on closing track “After All”, where the duo bid their audience farewell by urging retreat into the self. “Lonely girl, it’s okay / Take a breath, get away / Seek your cocoon,” comes a dulcet chorus, an encouraging sentiment for the exhausted. The final lines of the album are ones that ground Ohmme once more in a human reality: “After all, I let my hair down / After all, I need to plant my rose.”
Musically, philosophically, Ohmme is exciting. As a team, Cunningham and Stewart are as creatively innovative as they are technically skilled, their voices and guitars blending brilliantly as they construct sonic spaces all their own. Fantasize Your Ghost is warm, welcoming, and unpredictable, and Ohmme is a group to continue to watch as they tread ever new ground.