As a solo project for former Lungfish member Asa Osborne, Zomes albums consisted of mostly instrumental drones and overlapping cyclical themes, often recorded at home on garbled cassette tapes. Third proper full-length Time Was changed all that dramatically with a few key factors. The group both expands to a duo and to include a focus on vocals with the addition of Swedish singer Hanna Olivegren. Time Was also opens up the sound field for Zomes exponentially by being the first recordings to come out of a proper studio and not a compressed cassette. While enough of Osborne's deep droning tones and languished drum machine clacks remain to not spin Zomes into completely unknown waters, the album does sound markedly evolved and enriched by Olivegren's vocal additions and the clarified production. Singing sometimes in Swedish, sometimes not, Olivegren's cryptically murmured strings of syllables are the perfect counterpoint for Osborne's hypnotic organ drones. While being a touch reminiscent of early Cocteau Twins or Kate Bush's ethereal approach, her voice doesn't float in the same way as those artists as much as it churns and pulls, swimming alongside the fuzzy currents created by distorted electronic long tones and mantra-like keyboard passages. Tracks like "Footpaths" and "Monk Bag" linger in murky dissonance and guttural vocalizations while "Cave Mountain Stream" tends ever so slightly to a more involved chord progression, its mellow shifts marked by hits from a lonely tambourine and wordless multi-tracked coos. Though Zomes is evolving in slow motion, the steps made toward clarity and expanded arrangement on Time Was are enormous by their standards. Still entrenched in disciplined modal drones and repetition, the group existing as a duo adds new color and dimension to its meditative sounds, giving the listener a sense of real mystery and excitement in what once felt simply obscured.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas