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Beauty can take on many forms, and 2018's Parts, the first full-length album from the Chicago experimental pop group Ohmme, is a stellar example of just how many sharp angles and waves of noise can go into a song and still sound thoroughly engaging. Ohmme is the creation of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, two musicians who are part of Chicago's thriving experimental/improvisational music community, and their music is built around the possibilities of two guitars and two voices. While never treacly, there's a sweetness and warmth in Cunningham and Stewart's harmonies and vocal hocketing that's both challenging and charming, and with their voices front and center, they use their guitars to add flavor and texture to the melodies. Sometimes the interplay between Cunningham and Stewart's instruments is subtle, as in the low-key "Liquor Cabinet," while on "Grandmother" they layer noise over noise for an effect that's powerful and sonically liberating. Cunningham and Stewart are the heart and soul of this music, but on Parts they've brought along some additional collaborators who reinforce the mood and feel of these songs. Percussionist Matt Carroll keeps the beat here, but he also brings color to the music, moving in and out of the melodic structures rather than sitting beside them. And Tomeka Reid on cello and Ken Vandermark on bass clarinet make the most of their cameos, interacting with Cunningham and Stewart in a way that expands the boundaries of the songs without losing the plot (not to mention confirming Ohmme's improvisational bona fides). Ohmme are clearly not adverse to inspired noise, but they know how to put it in a context where it doesn't grate so much as it adds zest, like a good pepper sauce, and on Parts they've made an album that's smart, sweet, and full of potent flavor.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:17
2 5:17
3 5:00
4 2:30
5 3:50
6 2:54
7 5:28
8 4:30
9 5:28
blue highlight denotes track pick