Omni - Paint By Numbers

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 34:32:00

Omni are a trio from a certain state in the Northwest region of the United States that has produced a number of notable hard rock, metal and alternative bands over the years - Seattle. While you won't find any hints of Heart or Queensryche -- to name two of the most famous Seattle products -- you will find hints of Nirvana. Vocalist/guitarist Hans Twite sings in a quiet, understated manner, sounding a lot like Kurt Cobain in that (especially on the moody "Porcelain"), but also, stylistically, like Eddie Vedder. I was going to say that, unlike Cobain, you can understand what Twite is singing, but then along comes "Captured" and, well, it's a mumble that seems to form words - Twite seems to sing between his teeth, not opening his mouth much. This is not a complaint, just an observation. It's not a great voice, but it fits perfectly with the music (as of this writing, Twite has left the band, however).

Musically, though, there is a much more going on than your usual alt-rock/grunge release. The sound on Paint By Numbers is a mix of alternative rock with a slightly artier edge, which pushes them closer to prog. In other words, if you didn't like Nirvana or Pearl Jam, you needn't worry about not liking Omni. Other bands we can mention are King Crimson, though this element is not felt strongly - incidentally, this album was co-produced by Ronan Chris Murphy - and Djam Karet. So, mix all those disparate elements together, and that kinda what you get with Omni.

Their arty edge comes about in the complex arrangements all built around the bass and stick work of Chris Cullman. Around that, Twite plays often shimmery guitar lines that give those pieces a watery feel - not watered down, mind you, just watery - flowing, undulating, all the characteristics that water has as it flows downstream or rests in a pool, tiny waves generated by the gentlest of breezes. But, you might say the same thing about Cullman's sound, too? which makes some pieces, like "Inward" and the closer "Soliloquy," seem to breathe. His is a very rounded sound, loose and heavy, dark and though not quite menacing, you get the feeling that at any moment it could be. Listen to the dark rumble of "Capture" for instance. And yet there is the dark, but lyrical beauty of "Release," its companion piece.

There is a pattern to most if not all of Omni's pieces - moody, mellow, simmering verses, and explosive choruses. Now, obviously in a very general way, that's how songs go, where the chorus is more prominent than the verse, but here the contrast is stark. That isn't to say each track sounds the same, but the overall construction is the same. What's done in each piece makes them distinct. The opening track, "Paint By Numbers," starts things off, moving from a somber, understated bass and drum (Will Andrews) focused verse to explode into a wall of guitar, bass and drums for the chorus. One "exception to the rule" is the bass-focused groove of "Every Day," a cool piece of music that is dark and rumbling, yet played with a quiet freneticism. The thought that came to me? Djam Karet (circa The Devouring) with vocals. "Inward" is a shimmery instrumental that would be perfect to underscore some time-lapsed photography of some subject or another. You can fill in your image - flower, clouds moving across a sky, the day-night cycle, the pedestrians on a busy street? it has that that moving-static feel? not the suspended time of a Steve Roach, but more like we are looking through a fixed camera and viewing at high-speed what happened over the course of some time period.

To go along with the moodiness, we get lyrics that are not happy - something that Omni share with their grunge predecessors. There's artiness there, too. They come courtesy of Cullman, and though it doesn't say he is solely responsible for the music, one supposes that's why it is bass heavy.

It's a short album, barely playing more than half an hour, but Omni pack a lot into that short time. And do so wonderfully, without wasting a moment. And there's no filler, making it a tight album as well. You may think the moodiness would leave you depressed at the end, but no. The instrumentation leaves you with quite a different feeling. Great stuff indeed; recommended.

Paint By Numbers (4:55) / Every Day (4:04) / Porcelain (4:52) / C (4:48) / Inward (2:47) / Capture (4:21) / Release (5:52) / Soliloquy (4:13)

Hans Twite - vocals, guitar
Chris Cullman - bass, stick
Will Andrews - drums

Paint By Numbers (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: May 16th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1633
Language: english


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