Ohm - "Raw Ohm"
(Mizmaze/Snowdonia 2001, CD)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
To date, Texas based Ohm has released one now out of print and difficult to find LP, and one CD available on the Two Ohm Hop label (see review/interview in AI #9). Keyboardist Doug Ferguson is a ubiquitous fellow having recording with Vas Deferens Organization, Tone Float, Muz, and his most current project Yeti. And it's with open arms that I welcome this co-release from the folks at Mizmaze and Snowdonia of live Ohm performances from 1997-98. Ferguson is a collector of old analog keyboards (MELOTRON!) and he uses them to full effect. The rest of the band include Nathan Brown on bass and drums, Mason Weisz on guitar, Chris Forrest on clarinet, and (though uncredited) S. Forest Ward on percussion and sax, the clarinet and sax being instruments that combine with the keyboards to make some of the band's most exciting music.
Ohm play a dark and intense blend of Kosmiche music and avant rock. A practice session from summer '97 is a standout track that's an ambient space journey with the welcome addition of percussion. In fact, some of the percussive sounds seem trance efx'd so it's hard to tell if Brown is making them or if it's Ferguson's keys. In any event, this is a slowly developing ride through space with a variety of sounds and efx, combining low drones with higher pitched tones. Brown's drumming really adds a lot to the music providing continually changing beats and patterns which contrast and cooperate nicely with the spaced electronics. As the music progresses the volume slowly builds, the drums becoming increasingly tribal, and the keyboards at the end break the mercury of intensity. A beautifully steady ascent to the peak of this 14 minute track. Of the five tracks, the two from a Club Nowhere performance in 1997 are the other highlights. The sound brings to mind avant-garde Kosmiche music as Forrest's clarinet and Ferguson's keys create a dark chamber music that conjures up images of Univers Zero in the coldest reaches of space. Brown once again adds contrast and variety to the mix with steadily shifting drums patterns that seem to exist in a parallel world from the other musicians. And a DEEP bass kicks out periodic chest throbbing notes. The second of these tracks sees the clarinet go off on a bit of a noise-jazz jam, and the keyboards and guitar are creating dark cosmic atmospherics, but the whole thing is highly thematic and I feel I like I'm watching an intense chase scene in an action flick. The rhythms get pretty quirky as the pace picks up... kind of mechanically funky.
In summary, Ohm does an excellent job of blending Krautrock/Kosmiche/space/prog and avant-rock/RIO influences to create something both recognizable and maybe even slightly unique. You'll drool when you hear the abundance of classic keyboard sounds and melotron that make up the bulk of these performances. Recommended.
For more information you can visit the Ohm web site at: http://www.flash.net/~ohmmusic/.
Email Mizmaze at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or check out the Snowdonia web site at: http://snowdonia.interfree.it/.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz