OMBIIGIZI Make Noise with a Purpose on 'Sewn Back Together'

BY Alan RantaPublished Feb 9, 2022

Nobody lives forever. We only have a brief window to use our voices to influence the world. The debut album from Adam Sturgeon and Daniel Monkman's OMBIIGIZI is all about seizing that moment and using it to speak meaningfully and loudly.

OMBIIGIZI is the Ojibwe term for a loud, noisy or disturbing person. Living up to their name, the band's debut album Sewn Back Together has an undeniable presence. Its noise has purpose.

Noted guitarists and songwriters, Sturgeon and Monkman have drawn a fair amount of attention on their own. The buzzing shoegaze of Monkman's Zoon made it onto the 2021 Polaris Music Prize short list with Bleached Wavves, while the sludgy psych of Sturgeon's Status/Non-Status (f.k.a. WHOOP-Szo) landed on the 2020 long list with Warrior Down.

Both of those projects explored their personal histories as Anishnaabe artists. A primary theme of Bleached Waves was Monkman's path to sobriety, forged through the traditional Anishnaabe healing philosophy the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, while Sturgeon put his grandfather on the cover for Warrior Down. Together, the duo journey further than ever as OMBIIGIZI.

Their first full-length, Sewn Back Together, was produced in part by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew alongside Nyles Spencer at the Tragically Hip's Bathouse Studio, where they recorded in quick bursts for maximum impact. With a little aid from drummers Eric Lourenço and Drew McLeod, who respectively play in Zoon and Status/Non-Status, the gang jammed out at least a couple of songs every session, and the pace worked. What the record lacks in polish, it makes up for in immediacy.

Even though the duo temper the moccasin-gaze distortion and grungy sludge established on their individual works, OMBIIGIZI's debut still sounds quite heavy, as it's indebted to the last few decades of alternative rock. Incendiary instrumental "Niiyo" channels the hard-charging indie rock energy of "Are You Ready" from the Tragically Hip's In Violet Light into love for My Bloody Valentine. Powerful lyrics like "white picket fences at the cemetery" from "Residential Military" mingle with slacker art-rock swagger to evoke mid-career Sonic Youth.

"Zaagitoon" (meaning "treasure it") is a floating downtempo dream pop dirge with wistful, Auto-Tune-glitched vocals that almost sound like rushing water — an effect at once technological and elemental. This is similarly contrasted by the emo wailing of survival ballad "Spirit in Me" and the folksy spiritual chanting of "Yaweh," or in "Birch Bark Paper Trails," which portrays the patriarchal tension of achieving recognized status amidst At the Drive-In sonics and field recordings of bird calls. These songs are equally at home in lofts or by campfires — wherever people share stories in comfort, to comfort, even if they may be uncomfortable to hear.

With all these styles woven together as part of an essential and ongoing social conversation, Sewn Back Together is ultimately a work of healing. With introspective, emotional resonance and formidable guitar tones, OMBIIGIZI's noise cuts through the static, loud and proud.
(Arts & Crafts)

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