As a duo, Zomes is the musical equivalent of love at first sight. Asa Osborne created minimalistic ambience with a cassette recorder, electronic instrumentals that felt empty despite an ominous lo-fi aesthetic. Hanna Olivegren had a misty, angelic voice. When the two met at a Swedish musical festival last year, it only made sense that they fell into a collaborative partnership — her filling out his sound.
Osborne has already released a pair of LPs under the Zomes moniker; however, Time Was is the first to feature vocals so prominently. It’s a major revelation for his compositions, and although the electronic arrangements on Time Was are still sparse and simplistic, they’re not ill-conceived. Osborne plays a synth that’s routed through various stompboxes, giving it a fuzzy sound akin to the keyboards used on Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principle. Opener “Loveful Heights” and “Footpaths” best illustrate this style. There’s not a lot of variation in the notes, yet everything is in its place.
The spacey song structures give Olivegren complete freedom with the melody. And she sends it everywhere. Her words are in both Swedish and English, but she doesn’t sing like your typical pop vocalist. Instead, she uses her voice like an instrument, jumping octaves at seemingly random intervals and never missing a note (Kate Bush is an obvious comparison). Olivegren’s presence on songs varies, her involvement in the title track “Time Was” being a notable highlight.
Time Was is a relaxed record, one that thrives on its melancholic mood. The pace is slow and methodical, but never boring. Asa Osborne’s music certainly benefits from Hanna Olivegren. Hopefully this is only the first of many collaborations to come.
Essential Track: “Time Was”