Polymorph Records (POLYMORPH 01), 1999
It’s the packaging that first gets your attention – a black square of heavy paper that looks like it should hold a 7″ LP. Tilt it in the light, and you see, imprinted on the cover, a half-circle design, and within, OMNON by polygon. Unfold it, and you find the two CDs (disc 1 is titled Blackeye, disc 2 Purpose) nestled into opposing slits. An illustrated booklet, with a translucent title page, contains strange CG artwork that hints at deep space and aliens, accompanied with poetic, haunting liner notes. It’s a visually arresting package made with care and quality, the likes of which are becoming increasingly rare in our digital age, and limited to 500 hand-numbered copies (mine is #180).
Welcome to Omnon.
This is the second release by Ingo Lindmeier under his Polygon moniker, and when I consider the project’s too-brief career, Omnon stands as the highlight. Within the fourteen tracks (titled scape1, scape2, scape3, and so on), Lindmeier uses space and silence to create a minimal ambient journey that calms, inspires, and transports. Abandoning the vocal elements of 1995’s Refuge (Glasnost Records), Omnon would probably be defined as “space ambient”, if forced, but it doesn’t fit neatly into that (or any other) category. Many of the familiar tricks of the genre are present here – washes, samples, flutterings, clickings, pulsings – but they are arranged with precise care and attention to detail that results in a singular experience. Lindmeier has always used sparse melodic elements in his work (Omnon is no exception, which may deter dark ambient purists), but he never allows them to direct and define the music, resulting in a mood that never slips too far over the edge of darkness. Omnon is not merely dark for darkness’ sake; it’s just dark enough.
And there is music here; Omnon is not limited to pure atmosphere. Both “scape6” and “scape8” feature EBM-style sequencing as their foundation, while “scape4” and “scape9” (among others) contain percussive elements, sometimes bordering on tribal. These elements give Omnon an epic, cinematic feel, and keep things from bogging down; there’s over two hours of music here in total. Lindmeier knew this, too, and saves much of his best work for the second disc. “Scape13,” with its repeating drone, is the album’s darkest, most visceral moment, while the closer, “scape14”, takes all of Omnon’s defining characteristics and melds them together into a piece that’s almost uplifting, with strings and light metallic drums backing a distorted melodic chime. In an album of memorable moments, Lindmeier rewards the patient listener, while linking the music back to the similar, but-not-quite-as-accomplished “scape1”.
One of the things I enjoy about this type of music is how the experience can feel thematic and singular, despite seemingly disparate elements. Omnon is, simply, one of the best examples of this I’ve heard. As Lindmeier released only one more proper Polygon album – 2001’s Images – I get the feeling that he said all he had to say. When the sampled voice in “scape1” whispers “we’re almost there”, I have the impression Lindmeier is both preparing us for the journey to come, and telling us he’d done as well as he could.
Omnon doesn’t bury you under waves of noise, nor does it aim to unsettle. While those types of experiences certainly have their merit, sometimes something a bit more aesthetic is in order. Omnon pushes you just a little, experimenting just enough to engage, and consistently rewards. Lindmeier has given us an outline, and allows us to fill in the blanks: the sign of great ambient.