OMBIIGIZI, ‘Sewn Back Together’ — 4/5 stars

’Toban turntable

Image provided by Killbeat Music

OMBIIGIZI, a new collaborative project from artists Zoon and Status/Non-Status, is about searching. Sewn Back Together, as the title implies, establishes that the pair has been broken apart somehow, left looking for their place in history, their identity, trying to mend themselves.

The first track “Cherry Coke” meditates on the repeated phrase “still I wonder/wander,” interchanging the mental and physical acts of searching with a focus on physical space. The chorus’s lyrics of “Cherry Coke, Ontario” have a duality to them, too, switching between one of the ultimate symbols of western imperialism, the world-conquering brand of candy water and the province of Ontario — perhaps a similarly unhealthy, artificial creation of colonialism. It’s heavy stuff, but it’s done with such simplicity and calm.

The album, co-produced by Broken Social Scene leader Kevin Drew, draws largely from indie rock and shoegaze instrumentally. Tracks like “The Once Child” or “Spirit in Me” have the wide-open, jangly expanse of classic Broken Social Scene records, while other tracks draw from soft indie pop or late Sonic Youth’s dry, anxious energy. But what sets these songs apart is their use of Anishinaabe tradition. The liner notes emphasize the meandering nature of the music, “weaving in and out of the tangible and spiritual worlds, as all time-honoured Anishinaabe stories and songs have done.”

“Birch Bark Paper Trails” encapsulates this element, drifting in and out of trances, coming into focus for sharp, punky verses and then spacing out with instrumental vamps. It finishes with a spoken monologue about ancestry and history coming into conflict with borders, prisons, false barriers and forced assimilation, recounted over a stuttering, psychedelic swirl of guitars trading melodies with birdsong. It’s a combination of the two opposing moods on the album, one being the Pavement-like bite of “Residential Military,” a bitter, ironic, tossed-off barrage of social commentary and abstract poetry. On the other end is the song “Yaweh,” a widescreen dream in which the title is chanted over acoustic guitar and swirling synths.

Sewn Back Together isn’t without its flaws. It could be one of the only middle-loaded albums out there — the beginning and the end are both awkwardly sequenced, making the middle the most impactful part. It doesn’t feel quite cohesive, but it is a genuinely unique take on the tired sounds of indie rock, which is a rare thing. The songs are structured and conceived from a whole new angle, not necessarily concerned with pop structure or hooks but filled with meditative care and imbued with the weight of tradition.