I am aware that three of my articles published on this site this year have touched on the Australian bushfires, and the ProgAid charity gig to aid relief activities from that disaster. And I’m sorry, not sorry, but here’s another. That’s because, while for many, the bushfires are now out of sight, out of mind, they are still in mine. Now, admittedly, in the case of any disaster, there is a need to respond rapidly to emerging situations, but unfortunately, what is obvious time and time again is how quickly people outside affected areas forget and move on.
News by its very nature is new, so novelty is the key, and it doesn’t take long for the media to move on to the next big thing. It’s not merely the mainstream media, either. Outrage cycles on social media are pretty short these days, so much so that if someone dares to share something after others have moved on, they can be criticised for doing so. Unfortunately, public attention is a fickle thing. Everyone has sympathy and empathy, but it doesn’t last, even though relief is so desperately still needed. So this article was meant to be another plug for Prog Aid, which while being held in Australia was open to a global audience via remote tickets.
Unfortunately, less than two weeks before the event, Nine/Eight Touring has had to regretfully announce that ProgAid is no longer going to proceed. Despite our best efforts, there was not enough interest generated to make the event viable for all involved, and to make sure that the charities being supported would receive enough funds to make sure the bands who were travelling interstate would not be running at a loss. The tide of public interest appears to already have turned on bushfire relief gigs. There’s a feeling that perhaps after the big Fire Fight event, everyone figured it’s job done. Well, it’s not job done for me.
The headline band for ProgAid was set to be The Omnific, who were a band unknown to me, yet clearly must be big in Australia to hold the headline spot over bands such as Anubis and Hemina, who have quite a following in Europe. I felt duty-bound to check The Omnific out, and I can say I was suitably impressed! I began my journey with Pharaoh 2.0, a new version of one of the band’s earliest tracks, which they have released ahead of ProgAid. And it’s good. Very good!
Fusing jazz, math, ambient, dance, industrial and seemingly almost everything but the kitchen sink, Pharaoh 2.0 offers an almost stream of consciousness musical movement over its approximately five-minute duration. The piece sounds both carefully composed, yet entirely natural. That might sound an odd dichotomy, but it really does work. Though comprised of two bass players and a drummer, The Omnific do include some other instrumentation, but this is sparing and subtle – small shakings of salt and pepper to add accents to an already flavourful composition. Without a doubt, what you mostly hear are the basses and drums – and they are a joy to hear!
Obviously, having two bass players makes it possible to layer pieces, but honestly, The Omnific do it with such precision and good taste it’s amazing. As I said earlier, it’s obviously so carefully composed, yet sounds so natural. Having been so impressed with Pharaoh 2.0, I went back and listened to the original Pharaoh, from 2016 EP Sonorous. The differences between that and Pharaoh 2.0 are clear. Having now listened to all three EPs from The Omnific to date, it’s easy to see how the band have got better with every release. No doubt playing with legendary Aussie bands like Cog and Ne Oblivious have raised their game, but their game was clearly very good to begin with.
It would be easy to group The Omnific in with the new wave of instrumental music centred around djenty and technical, yet highly atmospheric compositions (which are generally not my thing), but The Omnific have a tendency to have a more math rock and almost jazz fusion sound. They play some beautiful, progressive and technical music, but without any of the wankery that often comes with that. And there’s an even bigger difference, and that is that unlike the aforementioned djenty atmospheric instrumental style of guitar players like Plini et al, The Omnific have no guitar player. As mentioned earlier, the trio comprises just two bass players and a drummer.
What really amazes me is the band’s age. I know I’m getting on in my years, and that the older I get, the harder it becomes for me to judge the ages of those obviously younger than me – but seriously, these guys look like they should not even be allowed to play the venues they do. And boy can they play! Matt Fack and Toby Peterson-Stewart create a mathematical assailment of sharp and precise bass fury, locked in with the beats of drummer Jerome Lematua. They intertwine and intersect, separate and syncopate, and basically dance around and with each other in a fashion that ensures that interest never wanes. Being as young and talented as they are, these three musicians have a long future ahead of them, and I look forward to following their journey now that I am aware of them.
If you enjoy Pharaoh 2.0, and feel compelled to hear more (and who could blame you?), The Omnific’s Bandcamp page has a terrific bundle deal for their three EPs – which, even including international shipping, is a bargain. I would highly recommend checking them out and, at this point, I’d also have suggested you consider buying a remote ticket to watch them play live at ProgAid, along with a bunch of other great Aussie bands. You’d have been able to see and hear some fantastic music, and all monies raised would have gone to charities aiding relief action still desperately needed for the Australian bushfires. This feels like a bit of a bummer to be ending a review on, but it’s how I feel. The silver lining to the black cloud is, even if ProgAid is no longer going ahead, it has made me check out the bands on the line-up who I was unfamiliar with. And I am very glad I checked out The Omnific.
The following are links to charitable organisations providing bushfire relief, to support their work please click and donate:
WIRES – Wildlife Rescue
01. Pharaoh 2.0 (4:50)
Matt Fack – Bass
Toby Peterson-Stuart – Bass
Jerome Lematua – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Australia
Date of Release: 21st February 2020