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OHMME (free)

  • Memorial Union Rathskeller 800 Langdon Street Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

A singular Chicago band returns behind its debut album. Info

Photo by Maren Celest.

Photo by Maren Celest.

Chicago band OHMME centers around the duo of vocalists/guitarists/producers Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham, who seamlessly combine the instincts of bright pop songwriting with a grasp of all things noisy and free. (Full disclosure: OHMME played a Tone Madison-presented event earlier this year.) On songs like "Furniture," from OHMME's self-titled 2015 EP, Stewart and Cunningham's voices twist together into sharp harmonies, doubles, and call-and-responses, so fluidly that it's rare for one to definitively take "lead" vocals on a song and the other "backups." Instead, the two voices sound like different ends of one continuum, and the duo's guitar work is just as solidly integrated, whether they're taking a restrained, folk-inspired approach, plowing into overdriven chords, or noisy improvisation.

OHMME's first full-length album, this year's Parts, keeps on exploring the sonic space around the duo's already airtight foundation, from the blasted-out and boisterous "Water" to the spacey melancholy of "Walk Me." It's a record laden with tense but amiable hooks and subtle production twists: "Peach" jumps between angular acoustic bridges and bursts of dissonantly abused electric guitars, and "Parts" places the pair's vocals over spaciously reverbed instrumentation, but all these elements sit together in a way that makes sense. The album also features contributions from reedist Ken Vandermark (who plays with Stewart in the avant-jazz quintet Marker), cellist Tomeka Reid, and guitarist/bassist Doug McCombs. Both Vandermark's glottal-sounding bass clarinet and Reid's versatile cello play a prominent role on "Sentient Beings," which is probably the song here that stretches out the most. Whatever the lineup (live, they usually bring along drummer Matt Carroll, who also plays on Parts), Cunningham and Stewart pull off music that's at once profoundly catchy and disarmingly strange. —Scott Gordon

Earlier Event: October 19
Maria Bamford
Later Event: October 20
Mori Mente, Ronin, Tarek Sabbar (free)