When Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart fired up their angular guitar sounds during soundcheck at the Tiny Desk, I was thrilled. The shrieking, rhythmic noise these two classically trained musicians make as Ohmme is what made their debut album Parts a musical highlight for me in 2018. But hearing them in the office, trading vocals with such ping-pong precision, sent me into euphoria. This is now one of my all-time favorite Tiny Desk Concerts.
Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, along with drummer Matt Carroll, steer clear of rock music cliché’s that plague so much of the music I hear these days. Their adventurous spirit, reminiscent of Dirty Projectors, is sometimes challenging. But it opens a window on what the voice can be. It also redefines what the guitar can do — at one moment it’s a stuttering percussive instrument — the next it’s a bed of noise with a harsh tone that somehow morphs its way into the melody.
For this Tiny Desk, we hear four well-crafted songs from that 2018 album, Parts, with subject matters ranging from the wretched times we live in to understanding human behavior and the tale of an aging grandmother who loses her body before her mind. This brilliant band from Chicago has a creative future ahead of it, and I feel like we captured a bit of lightning in a bottle and a glimpse toward that bright future.
Sima Cunningham: vocals, guitar; Macie Stewart: vocals, guitar; Matt Carroll: drums
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, James Willetts; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, CJ Riculan, Bronson Arcuri; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Photo: Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR