“We share everything” noted Sima Cunningham, referring to her bandmate Macie Stewart’s sly trot across the DC9 stage to sneak a sip of tequila soda.
This vastly understates the onstage dynamic of Ohmme, Stewart and Cunningham’s Chicago based avant pop project. The band, reminiscent of offbeat indie rock like Cate le Bon or Tune-Yards, is touring off Parts, their 2018 LP, a first for the project despite both artist’s backgrounds as classically trained musicians.
Ohmme has a refreshingly unpredictable sound and song structure. Tracks like “Water,” “Parts,” and “Liquor Cabinet” bounce from sunny harmonies to fuzzy guitar riffs to disjointed improvised breakdowns, and back to upbeat pop-rock in a few short minutes. As such, Parts is an exhilarating listen. Thankfully it was just as exhilarating live, watching Stewart and Cunningham execute their kaleidoscopic songs with precision and grace.
Ohmme’s recorded material has a parallel dynamism to it; oscillating vocal harmonies, complimentary guitar parts, and nimble galloping beat that carries through the album. But live, their individual demeanors were intriguingly unique. Cunningham’s stage presence was enjoyably erratic in the riot grrrl tradition; wildly curly hair, patterned tights, “Donald Eres Un Pendejo! ” t-shirt, and a snarling energy to her guitar playing. Stewart, on the other hand, displays a calm and beguiling control of her instrumentation; the demure focus and technical execution of St Vincent as opposed to the ferocity of Kathleen Hanna.
Stewart’s unexpected use of violin for a few songs effortlessly enhanced the richness of their sound and hinted at what Ohmme could look like on a bigger stage for a bigger tour; their two guitars backed by a small ensemble of strings, maybe some inventive percussion, analog synth and a horn or two. For now, the duo’s minimalism is mesmerizing. But Cunningham and Stewart’s idiosyncratic creativity is a good sign for Ohmme’s future.