Ombiigizi 
Sewn Back Together

Arts & Crafts • 2022

Ombiigizi’s debut, Sewn Back Together, flows like a river, finding a path forward against all obstacles.

By way of introduction, Adam Sturgeon (Status/Non-Status) and Daniel Monkman (Zoon) explain that the word they’ve chosen for their collaborative musical project means “s/he is noisy,” which immediately conjures certain expectations. Given their individual musical output (Sturgeon’s sludgy and cinematic rock and Monkman’s droney waves of guitar wash), you’d expect Ombiigizi to blow your speakers as well as your mind. Sewn Back Together offers up more of the latter than the former, the noise in question being the presence of two Anishnaabe artists asserting their existence and exploring cultural histories in what writer Waubgeshig Rice in the album’s liner notes calls “the spirit of making noise in a good way.”

The first noise of note on Sewn Back Together is Monkman’s voice, sounding forlorn, faraway, and yet wholly in the moment on opener “Cherry Coke.” Drums roll like a runaway memory, one that can’t stop playing through the mind’s eye. The song is reflective and longing, inspired by time in his youth spent on the reserve with his father. The second is the clarity and subtlety of the arrangement. Anyone familiar with Monkman and Sturgeon’s music may not expect Ombiigizi to sound as clear or as tight as they do on Sewn Back Together. Like the opening track, “Residential Military” connects the past with the present with lyrics referencing ancestral traditions placed in a modern context. A wiry, wordless guitar line serves as the chorus for the angular art-rock flex that bounces jubilantly into “The Once Child.” Once again, another rolling rhythm fuels an extended instrumental intro likely born out of the improvisational jams at the core of the Ombiigizi partnership. Nothing about the song feels intentional or premeditated; it’s as if Monkman and Sturgeon decided to make some noise together and see where they end up. 

That freedom from form and structure works wonders on the sludgy post-rock instrumental “Niiyo Biboonagizi,” offering a counterpoint to more formal compositions like “Ogiin,” where Monkman’s high tenor is balanced by Sturgeon’s resonating lower register. Their clarion harmonies are tender and attention-grabbing and one of the album’s most sparkling moments. As beautiful as “Ogiin” and many of the album’s other songs are, it’s “Spirit In Me” that will linger with you long after the thirty-one-minute album is over. The song is Sturgeon’s time to shine vocally, his razor-sharp howl rattling your soul: “The spirit in me is my family / The past and the future / Together it’s nearer to our prophecy.” Honestly, you could pull a two-line quote from any part of the song’s lyrics and understand the album’s thesis and Ombiigizi’s entire reason for being. 

“Spirit In Me” is followed up by “Yaweh” and “Birch Bark Paper Trails,” the first something of a companion piece to “Was & Always Will Be” from Zoon’s Bleached Wavves, the second of a kind with songs on Status/Non-Status’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years. “Zaagitoon” brings Sewn Back Together full circle, echoing the sense memory feeling of “Cherry Coke” with a contemplative string accompaniment, rolling percussion, and dreamy vocals. It’s a drop of sugar in the water for an album that flows like a river, finding a path forward against all obstacles. Sewn Back Together fills in the gaps and stitches back the connections between past and present that inspired Monkman and Sturgeon to collaborate in the first place. Ombiigizi is obstinate in their instance on getting where they need to go while making as much noise as they want along the way.

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Bilal Nasser 
Where the Orange Groves Grow