Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.

music Home > Record Reviews

Know Your Product

Zomes: Zomes


Zomes: Zomes

Label:Holy Mountain
Format:Album
Media:CD
Release Date:2008
Genre:Psychedelia/Space Rock

By Michael Byrne | Posted 11/12/2008

Zomes is the new guitar/organ project of Asa Osborne, guitarist of erstwhile Baltimore/Dischord shaman-rock foursome Lungfish. And, as Human Bell was to Lungfish bassist Nathan Bell, it's a tremendous re-emergence and several large steps away from Lungfish's weighty rock sensibilities into demure, folk, and psych-bent exploration.

Something of a melodic counterpoint to certain West Coast drone-based vibe music--notably, Zomes is one "s" away from the title of a 2004 White Rainbow record, and comes courtesy of Oregon-based psych label Holy Mountain--Osborne's Zomes sends slow-moving ripples through the interior space commonly housing the soul or at least unsettles the body's hotly vibrating source of negative/stress energy. It mellows, pacifies, and is very, very good at it. In other words, you put Zomes on and wake up 40 minutes later.

These relatively short compositions (from :58 to 3:35) feel remarkably clean: unfettered, unassuming, and, in their brevity, isolated. You could imagine French enchantress Colleen making something like this if she were more in tune with American folk music than lofty, contemporary classical construction. Note the song "Colored Matter." The melody, played on an old buzzing electric organ (or so it sounds), some six notes of it, repeats itself for just over two minutes and varies little--if at all--with wide two-second spaces in between the repetitions full of open, softly buzzing air, letting you know that, yes, this is being recorded in a room on planet Earth by a human being who is breathing that same open air as you. That lightly brushed coarseness, found throughout Zomes, has the feeling less of a coating of grit on mechanical parts than a coarse, lifetime-in-the-elements living skin.

A traveler through Osborne's Zomes will find blocks--islands, even--of short, sublime melodies, each speaking the same language in radically different dialects, existing in a fuzzy buzzing ether arranged and stacked with the deft hand of an old wizard. The notes come from an organ or electric guitar, neither one seeing much manipulation besides a looping pedal. There are some drums--minimal, forming a slight backbone, an irregular tick-tocking to stare through, similar to how Osborne used percussion in his relatively brief Lungfish side project with Daniel Higgs, the Pupils. (Overall, the sparseness and subtlety of Zomes has more to do with the Pupils than it does with Lungfish, if a comparison needs to be made.)

Subtle or not, at turns Zomes approaches the monumental. "Crowning Orbs" thickens, gradually morphing and elongating the organ over knocking heartbeats, as if Osborne is painting flesh and third-dimensional motion onto an EKG, and the song gazes straight through you. (And, while it's the longest track here, the fade out at three and a half minutes is a bummer.) "Night Signs" is as much a mantra as "Colored Matter," the chant replaced by a squirrelly, muted guitar line repeating with a droning note binding the loops together, like hushed, flickering bulbs strung together on a cord. "Petroglyphs" steps relatively outside the Zomes palette, with raggedy drones buttressing the cleanest synth notes on the record, a super-advanced alien craft crunching down a backwoods gravel road. "Sentient Beings," one of the more baldly psychedelic tracks here, uses phaser-treated organ clips like slight tornadoes growing out of an odd, almost inverted melody to wonderful, disorienting effect. Like the rest of Zomes, you're made to feel like psychic prey, at the mercy of a shaman with fingers long enough to vibrate your deepest brain parts.

E-mail Michael Byrne

Comments powered by Disqus
Calendar
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter