Chicago art-pop duo Ohmme assert themselves as one of the city’s best bands on Parts | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Chicago art-pop duo Ohmme assert themselves as one of the city’s best bands on Parts


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Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart are only in their 20s, but both of them have already become stalwart figures on Chicago’s music scene, nonchalantly cutting across disparate communities. Cunningham largely sticks to Americana and indie, touring or collaborating with artists such as Jeff Tweedy and Twin Peaks, while Stewart is just as comfortable playing free jazz in the Few and Marker as she is working alongside Chance the Rapper, but the duo find common cause in Ohmme. They’re beguiling as a pop band, enfolding all kinds of experimentation within hooky tunes as casually as they pivot between styles. With their dazzling new album, Parts (Joyful Noise), the duo have parlayed their curiosity, deep talent, and years of gigging into one of the year’s most satisfying recordings. Propelled by the intricate drumming of Matt Carroll, Cunningham and Stewart braid angular, biting guitar licks—often spiked with waves of feedback or lacerating dissonance—as freely as their voices meld in angelic or astringent harmonies. On fizzy songs such as “Icon” and “Water” Ohmme channel the slaloming art-pop sound of Dirty Projectors, engaging in steeplechase vocal acrobatics that are as hummable as they are athletic, but in general they keep things unfussy. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of novel details: they run their voices through a Leslie speaker on the title track—one of numerous songs that deftly convey a rising tide of frustration with both love and the world at large—to create an appealing washed-out quality, and channel a touch of British folk elegance on “Liquor Cabinet.” Cellist Tomeka Reid and reedist Ken Vandermark thicken the arrangements on a couple of tunes, but otherwise Cunningham and Stewart play everything but the drums. They sculpt a sound that’s rich yet agile, and summon a virtual orchestra using only their voices and guitars.   v

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