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There’s an obvious chemistry emanating throughout Ohmme’s music that’s so tangible it can
only come from a decades-spanning friendship. Songwriters Sima Cunnningham and Macie
Stewart formed their unbreakable bond performing throughout the fringes of Chicago’s many
interlocking communities, collaborating with titans from the city’s indie rock, hip-hop, and
improvised worlds. But together, along with drummer Matt Carroll, they’ve stretched the
boundaries of what guitar music can do starting with the band’s experimental 2016 self-titled EP
and their adventurous debut 2018 LP Parts. Now their longstanding partnership culminates with
the stunning and muscular follow-up Fantasize Your Ghost.
Ohmme formed in 2014 as an outlet for Cunningham and Stewart to explore an unconventional
approach to their instruments. “That’s the whole genesis of the band: us walking up to our
guitars and saying, ‘how can we make this noisemaker do something different?'” says
Cunningham. But as their musical collaboration strengthened, bringing Parts and intensive tours
with acts like Wilco, Iron & Wine, Twin Peaks, and more, the band’s scope and focus has also
broadened. Fantasize Your Ghost is the direct result of the band spending more time on the
road than in Chicago, a record deeply concerned with questions of the self, the future, and what
home means when you’re travelling all the time.
“Grinding on tour last year for so long, it can alter your mental state where you have to think
about your life in a different way than you would if you’re home. A lot of the songs stemmed
from just thinking about all of the possibilities that life could be and could take,” says Stewart.
On the commanding single “3 2 4 3,” which tackles the terrifying realization of needing to make
a change. The song opens with the two singing in transfixing harmony, “Looked in the mirror
the other day / Caught my reflection / My mouth had moved a different way / The muscles were
straining.” Their deft scene-setting and the way their disparate voices blend together heightens
the song’s inherent anxiety. Later, they sing, “Filling the holes to make amends / Tearing them
up to start again.” These moments of emotional clarity fill Fantasize Your Ghost.
Written across 2019, early sketches of the album’s tracklist were demoed at Sam Evian’s Flying
Cloud Studios in upstate New York. “That’s where we really started to see the record come
together,” says Cunningham. The sessions were intensely collaborative and open: the product
of long, existential conversations between Stewart and Cunningham in the van about their lives
and how to channel the anger they were feeling about the state of the world. Tracks like the
driving opener “Flood Your Gut” underwent several revisions with Ohmme uncovering several
new directions the song could go before finishing it. The refrain “your whole vision’s not enough”
is a call to action, says Cunningham. “Do you want to be someone who can disconnect or
someone who is hyper-engaged and present?”
Fantasize Your Ghost was recorded over a six day session in August 2019 when the band
decamped to the Post Farm in southern Wisconsin, where Cunningham runs a yearly DIY music
festival. With indie rock journeyman producer Chris Cohen and the idyllic setting just outside
Chicago, the songs came to vibrant life. Though Parts showcased their wildly burgeoning
influences and talents, Fantasize Your Ghost captures the astounding magnetism and ferocity
of their live show. “Selling Candy” is the perfect example. It’s a small snapshot of childhood
complete with nostalgic references to summertime hot dogs and wandering the city but set to an
explosive, stadium-ready fuzzed-out arrangement. Elsewhere, songs like the dystopian dance
rocker “The Limit” further stretch their already dynamic palette.
Fantasize Your Ghost encapsulates the thrilling and sometimes terrifying joy of moving forward
even if you don’t know where you’re going. It’s an album that asks necessary questions: When
life demands a crossroads, what version of yourself are you going to pursue? What part of
yourself will you feed and let flourish and what do you have to let go of? When they sing, “Just
walk out the door and / Don’t tell them goodbye” it’s drastic but also exhilaratingly hopeful. This
is a record of strength, of best friends believing in each other. Unapologetic and brave, Ohmme
are ready to figure it all out together.
Josh Terry
Chicago, IL
1/24/2020

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