Omon Ra has a firm grasp on the
possibilities of space, both within the music they create and the vast solar system spread out above us. Their unique take on what could be described as blues-tinged folk hybrid---with a healthy dose of experimental bravery to boot---takes equal pleasure in letting spaces within the music breathe, while also sounding pretty "spacey."
Roommates Daniel Miller and Zachary Fairbrother appear to have a substantial interest in space's great unknown. The two formed Omon Ra shortly after meeting. A week after bonding over Miller's stellar record collection, they were jamming, and now they craft some of the trippiest, spaced-out music you're likely to hear in Halifax. Great for dealing with hangovers, too---it's like "Sunday Morning Coming Down" on acid.
Their name also draws upon the space theme. Omon Ra is the title of a book by Russian author Victor Pelevin, centring around government conspiracies, Egyptian and Russian mythology and space exploration.
"We never thought of going in a spacey (direction). I just thought Omon Ra sounded cool---like (famed jazz musician) Sun Ra; Omon Ra, it's a good band name. Then we started to embark on this weird space vibe," says Fairbrother, a fourth-year music student at Dalhousie University.
"All of a sudden we were passing sci-fi novels to each other and just constantly talking about space," adds Miller.
Within the last year Omon Ra has released two albums. Monolith 1 is a beautiful collection of lo-fi acoustic ditties, highlighted by playful arrangements and vocals that rely on reverb, creating an extra instrument that Fairbrother likens to having a horn section.
"A lot of that stuff is tone worship," says Miller. He and Fairbrother perform the Wayne's World "We're not worthy!" arms-to-the-ground routine to emphasize the point.
Tone worship continues to be the theme with their second release of 2008, The Halls of Medicine, a more varied effort with extra instrumentation and clearer vocals. It was released through Fixture Records, a Montreal label that will also reissue Monolith 1 with extra material added.
Omon Ra's musical approach is freewheeling and unafraid to delve into unexpected territory. This aspect of their aesthetic they partially attribute to a mutual respect for bands from the Krautrock scene. The genre centred around wildly creative musical groups from Germany in the late '60s and early '70s like Can, Neu! and Faust, bands known for their willingness to try out anything, no matter an audience's expectations.
"Faust is my religion," says Miller, regarding the band who actually titled one of their most famous songs "Krautrock."
"We think Krautrock is the ultimate genre because it's so diverse," adds Fairbrother, to which Miller elaborates. "Not being self-limiting in any way is what Krautrock strives for. It can span just about anything over the course of a record and somehow it fits together. Each record can be totally different but it's not off-putting in any way. It still sounds cohesive."
This strive towards an anything-goes approach while maintaining a cohesive sound will be expanded with the band's upcoming releases. There's a seven-inch single on the horizon and a full-length album is being prepped for fall. They've also upgraded their recording gear, resulting in songs with a bigger sound and more upfront vocals.
Meanwhile, the band will continue to create music, swap sci-fi novels and consider the infinite possibilities of the universe. They even have a grand mission to plan for in the future.
"I would love to be the artist-in-residence at NASA," Miller exclaims---a position currently held by American artist Laurie Anderson. Fairbrother is equally open to this possibility. "Maybe that's our mission!"
Omon Ra w/Husband and Knife and The Ether, Saturday, February 7 at the Khyber ICA, 1588 Barrington, 10pm, $6, 422-9668.