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Artist: Zomes

Album: Zomes

Label: Holy Mountain

Review date: Nov. 20, 2008

Zomes, in case you didn’t know, are structures built out of non rectangular polyhedrons – like triangles, pentagons, hexagons and so on. The best-known one is Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, but you can build one yourself, any time. There’s a company in Colorado that sells Zomes kits for children as young as seven.

More to the point, Zomes is also a musical project from Lungfish guitarist Asa Osborne. It’s not clear, actually, what the link is between Zomes and Zomes, or whether Osbone has spent time with the color coordinated dowels and sockets of polyhedral construction. (He is a visual artist, so you can’t rule it out.) However, it seems just barely possible to make a connection. This sound is droning and fuzzy, certainly, without the hard geometrical edges that you might expect. Yet it is built out of small, irregular musical ideas, repeated kaleidoscopically and creating vast, improbable constructions of light and tone.

Osborne works alone with minimal elements, percussion, drum machine, guitar and keyboards. His mode of operation is slow, craftsmanlike, and patient. You can almost see him picking a phrase out of a toolbox, hefting it to see if it will fit within a measure, and rocking it back and forth carefully, until it slips it into a groove. These melodic pieces are rusty, dirt-encrusted, full of static, yet this is part of their power. Once they’ve been worked and reworked, played and replayed, fitted together in strange non-symmetrical patterns, their fuzziness seemed to strengthen the aura of ritual, rather than subtracting from it.

The cuts on Zomes range somewhat in tone and complexity. The opening title track is sparse dialogue between pounding drums and two-toned organ riffs. The organ speaks, the drum answers, the drum asks, the organ responses. It’s a flat sort of landscape, but not without interest and heft. “Sentient Beings,” two cuts later, twines two slightly more baroque guitar licks around hiss and distant bells. They are not much different from one another, these musical ideas. One twists up, the other down. Still, in alternation, they are fluid and mesmerizing and close to melody. “Clear Shapes,” later on, has the buzz and volume of ‘60s psych, one guitar keeping a steady cadence, the other sliding viscously around this rock-solid foundation. And “Peace Patterns” has a sitar-ish shiver to its twisting, twining guitar notes, a stretched-out, strung-out homage, maybe to George Harrison. The point is that all 16 tracks are different, with slightly varying instrumentation and modestly different reference points, but they flow seamlessly from one to another.

The whole album has the feel of careful, structural construction…of building one track to support the first, and another to augment them both. Maybe you can construct airy, geometrical edifices out of nothing more than guitar and organ and percussion. With Zomes, Asa Osborne has certainly built something rare and fascinating.

By Jennifer Kelly

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