On Souvenir, Onmi Fine-Tune Their Formula

Five years after their previous release, the Atlanta band returns with another set of quick, to-the-point and kinetic post-punk.

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On Souvenir, Onmi Fine-Tune Their Formula

“Exacto, de facto / Concise, quite right,” vocalist Phllip Frobos beckons on “Exacto,” the opener to Omni’s fourth album, Souvenir. Those lyrics describe exactly what it is the Atlanta trio does. Ever since their breakout single—2016’s “Wire” (another metallically-inclined song name)—Omni have cut with precision. They couldn’t have said it any better than “Exacto.” Five years after their previous release, the band returns with another set of quick, to-the-point and kinetic post-punk.

Souvenir follows a period of inactivity for the group. After the album cycle for 2019’s Networker finished, Omni returned to Atlanta. But, before they could regroup to start a new album, the pandemic interrupted their plans. Since Frobos and guitarist Frankie Broyles weren’t able to write or rehearse together during the COVID-19 lockdown, they ruminated on personal projects. Frobos released both a novel and a solo album, 2021’s Vague Enough To Satisfy. When they returned to make Souvenir, Omni made structural changes. Frobos and Broyles welcomed drummer Chris Yonker in as a full-time member of the band; they brought in recording engineer Kristofer Sampson to maximize the punchiness of their high-strung rock ‘n’ roll. They even feature a guest collaborator for the first time: vocalist Izzy Glaudini of psych-rock group Automatic, who appears on “Plastic Pyramid,” “Verdict” and “F1.”

But Souvenir is not the dramatic shift that these changes might suggest. For all intents and purposes, the album sounds like it could’ve followed on the heels of 2019’s Networker immediately. But, for a band that’s got a working formula, that’s not a bad thing. Like a finely-sharpened blade, Omni might not change much over time, but they sure aren’t rusting either. Their best songs start as minimal post-punk sketches and build into earworms. Highlights in their discography like “Wire” and 2017’s “Equestrian” work so well because Broyles and Frobos locked their mathematical guitar and bass lines into choruses that fit together like puzzle pieces. These songs race with unstoppable momentum, like Is This It-era Strokes with the disparate playing of Devo or Television.

Omni returns to this structure throughout Souvenir, and for good reason. It works. “INTL Waters” unleashes its tension in its outro, and piano chords hit every beat like an emergency alarm. Their songs reward this transfer of energy, from tightly-wound dissonance into immediate and physical rock. On “Plastic Pyramid,” Glaudini warns, “Hold on tight”—before Broyles races into a guitar solo to take the track home. “Verdict” is spiky and forceful. Frobos calls and responds to Broyles’s anxious guitar. But then, it crests to a small, sticky hook: “You know I left a spare key out for you,” he belts, as those guitar lines drop out. These moments demonstrate what Omni does best. Their little spurts of energy are the most impactful parts of Souvenir.

If anything has changed in Omni’s sound since their previous release, it’s Souvenir’s clean production-value. Their earlier albums were homegrown and lo-fi. Even though their playing has always had a pointed and geometric quality, it also had more dirt under its fingernails. There’s none of that here. Every element in the mix is particular, distinct and separate. Any leisurely guitar noodling from Networker has been calcified into more brutal shapes. The grumbling guitar on “Double Negative” and “To Be Rude” is distorted but still antiseptic; the chords of “F1” are choppy and broken, Frobos’s pronunciation of each consonant extra-visible when he stutters “Come here and / Cut, cut, cut, cut, me out” on “Exacto.” The whole album is as dry as sandpaper, and it makes for a tense and exhilarating listen. Souvenir is a rubber band pulled to the brink.

Omni named their fourth album Souvenir because each song “reflects the time and place in which it was created,” per a press release. They’re feeding off their environment and channeling it into each song. But Souvenir never feels nostalgic. It’s too fast-paced, with only one song extending past three-and-a-half seconds. It’s too brisk, mechanical and brittle to deal in memories. The album shines when it delivers those high-octane moments of rock. These are no souvenirs; they’re gifts for the present.

Andy Steiner is a writer and musician. When he’s not reviewing albums, you can find him collecting ‘80s Rush merchandise. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

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