Album Review: OHMA – Between All Things

[Colorfield Records; 2022]

As its title suggests, Between All Things is a record about interconnectivity. Los Angeles duo OHMA (made up of Mia Garcia and Hailey Niswanger) created the album to explore the minutiae of the world: those sunlit particles of dust settling on a cold morning; the sway of tree branches between each other in the wind; the distant noises of nature and human life weaving together. Between All Things was set to evoke a deep listening. Its organic countenance makes it feel like it grew from an Eden-like garden of its own accord. Meditative and calm, but full of life and colour, it’s a record to get lost in and reset your life to.

OHMA’s impressive skills come twofold. The first is the sheer amount of instruments they weave together here without it ever seeming like a fuss. Fluttering woodwinds, sensual saxophones, gravelly percussion, swirling and contemplative piano, and nimble guitar figures all move in and out of each other. The anchoring chords of “Worlds Within Worlds” allow flutes to ascend gently skywards while a sleek bass murmurs about the lower end. “In Essence” could be a Múm track with a smoother focus thanks to it’s impish, rustling drum track (made deliberately to evoke the sound of children running), and “A Primordial Dance”, with its glossy and groomed rhythm, seems to have some lingering influence of labelmate Benny Bock (whose instrumental chops appear here and there across the album). Everything has a place, and rarely does anything ever sound superfluous. 

The second side of OHMA’s expertise is Between All Things’ pace. Garcia and Niswanger display an expert skill in laying out a variety of tempos and rhythms, but all without ever feeling like the album is speeding up or slowing down for any kind of dramatic effect. This is an album to sink into, get absorbed by, and escape into. The cyclic reading of the track titles as one long looping sentence also seems to invite repeated listens. It practically asks you to take off your shoes at the door and go at your own pace thereafter. Apart from maybe the record’s final two tracks which feel a little like afterthoughts added on after the fact, Between All Things is a cohesive unit that feels naturally compiled. The duo work with such ease in and around each other’s performances that it makes the fact that this is their first record together something quite remarkable.

Though best sunk into as a whole, the album does offer some musical highlights that stick out in your mind after you leave its presence. On “Organically Unfolding”, calming piano figures ascend into a fluttery mesh of high notes before it sinks down into swampy reaches in its second half. The title track offers perhaps the starkest moment when a processed voice appears suddenly towards the end to ask: “have you ever really thought about it?” Despite its robotic edge, it feels quite in place amidst Abe Rounds’ light drum work and the floating wordless vocals from the main duo. Another voice responds to the question: “thought about what?” OHMA offer up some answers regarding the interconnectedness of all things and the general theme of the project, but the answer may well be your own. In this kind of blissful, busy natural world the duo create, every colour is more vivid, every sound more enhanced, and every thought that little bit deeper.