It can be hard to pin down what it is exactly that listeners appreciate about bands like Omahara, and harder still to do so without sounding pretentious. To many, the band’s dark and ambient instrumental drone laid over tribal beats would seem like little more than repetitive bouts of nondescript noise. Such opinions are understandable, but there’s a distinct emotional weight to this kind of music that is seldom found elsewhere. Omahara’s music is reliant on a heavy, brooding atmosphere that is steadily crafted over lengthy tracks, and this creates a sonic palette capable of catering to emotions untouched by other genres.
The band’s second album takes its time creating the right atmospheres, as if each development the songs take have been meticulously crafted to paint a certain picture in the listener’s head, despite the album’s tracks stemming from improvised pieces. Many would argue that this is an uncreative style of music dominated by quiet and motionless sections, but the real satisfaction here comes from the imagination it spawns from the listener, down to even leaving all four tracks untitled, giving no indication of an intended theme or feeling. The real impact of the first track, for instance, comes with a cacophonic crescendo of tribal percussion, discordant guitars and atmospheric sonics, but the song takes fifteen minutes building to this climax. Slowly and subtly creating a vast, lifeless landscape, the track places you in a state of vulnerability before unexpectedly bursting into life like the sudden eruption of a long dormant volcano, and the result is strikingly affecting.
What is also commendable here is a lack of gimmickry. So often in drone and other forms of would-be progressive music, bands often feel the need to dress up weirdly, talk about bizarre otherworldly concepts or use instruments often deemed exotic by (western) audiences. Omahara are, in some ways, a conventional band mostly using instruments even the most casual of listeners will find familiar and focusing on vague but introspective ideas rather than grand undecipherable concepts. Regardless, what emerges is a sonically gargantuan sound with a sometimes overwhelming focus on a contemplative emotiveness that is truly hard to escape when enraptured by the overpowering mass of the music.
An album like this is personal, and can often only be enjoyed alone. Omahara will never be heard on the radio and will certainly never be played at any parties, but their music proves that despite immersive Imax cinemas, VR headsets and giant TVs constantly allowing us to lose ourselves in fictional surroundings and events, there’ll always be a place for creative music that allows listeners to sit and, as the band’s Bandcamp page ambitiously claims, “vanish into themselves”.
Omahara is out now on Art As Catharsis. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr