New Artist Of The Week: Omina

From his time as half of Involve to his new opus Alium, we explore Omina's journey so far...

There are certain projects dotted along a creative individual’s journey that stand out as pivotal waymarks. Literal game-changers that flip the creator’s approach or totally reboot and galvanise their skills. Moments where that often-unreachable next level suddenly moves a little closer. For Omina, his biggest moment so far is Alium. 

Out this week, it’s taken Omina over 50 versions and countless more revelations and epiphanies to realise. It’s also taken a whole system upgrade! 

“I’ve really pushed myself with this one,” grins Omina, real name Zia. “I still feel I have a long way to go and have a long journey ahead of me but Alium is definitely the closest to where I want to be. It’s been a lot of different projects and ideas all coming together and I’ve even had to get a new computer to finish it. But I’m happy I’ve done that. I’m excited. That was a journey and a learning experience. It took so long but I’m glad I stuck with it.”

An ever-mutating adventure of twists, turns and textures, Zia describes the track as three separate sections that bring together all of his influences and favourite elements of electronic music from sci-fi soundscape to techno via jungle and the classic rolling sound. A deeply personal track that documents his progression as an artist, the sonics and dynamics also reflect his time playing in a band. 

“I play drums and I lived in Bristol up until lockdown,” he explains. “We shared a studio space and had a little band session once a week which also fed into writing Alium; playing drums, being involved in a band. It made me think about how music is performed live and how I can try and fit that type of freedom and movement into my track. Having variations, riffing it for a bit and going into different sections. Alium definitely has that influence, especially in the hi-hats.” 

But while Alium is the closest Zia has got to achieving the sound in his mind that he’s trying to create, it’s not his first rodeo. Aged 28, Zia is still very much a new generation in D&B terms but his journey has already been a long one. Both creatively and personally; his youth was spent on the road with travelling hippie parents, residing at various communes across the UK and Europe. 

“I lived in Upper Hill near Hereford, Monkton Wyld on the coast, Falcon Blanco in Ibiza for a year and Tipi Valley in Carmarthenshire where I was born,” explains Zia who’s a web developer by trade. “I didn’t attend formal education until my teens and my life was spent in various hippie communities. Lots of memories of Djembe drumming, tribal chants, Krishna chants, Native American summoning spirits. There was always drumming around the fire…”

Now the fire comes from Omina himself. Prior to his latest, and most developmental, opus came the dark purring technoid creeper Habitat on PAV4N’s Darkmode imprint and before that came Hold On with singer Izzy Wilding (who’s also his partner) on Celsius Recordings. But even these recent outings don’t reflect Zia’s full drum & bass journey. 

Before his Omina alias was Involve, a duo who experienced a brief moment of spotlight with the Skankandbass supported Cobalt around five years ago. At the time Involve was the product of Zia’s years of mixing, chasing local promoters with demo CDs and digging deep through the crates in Carmarthen record store Tangled Parrot.

“It’s been a life-long passion,” he beams. “I got into drum & bass around 2010 when I was 15 or 16 but even at that time we were looking back to the older vinyls. Rob Data & Kemal, Ed Rush & Optical, Dom & Roland. Those are the artists I still hold as my key influences alongside acts like Phace and Noisia but everything builds on what happened with that early 2000s, late 90s explosion of ideas and sounds. So yeah I feel like I’ve been connected with it for a long time.”

An old head on young shoulders, Zia is rooted in the fundamentals but his focus is set firmly on the future. It’s the whole premise that his Omina alias is based upon: “I established the Omina project purposefully to start again from scratch. I switched to Windows, switched to Cubase and made all my sounds from scratch. When I first started I’d spend a whole weekend just working on a kickdrum but I can feel it paying off now. The whole focus is to try and be more atmospheric and really try to capture that experimental dark, subversive, dissonant and paranoid sound. I’ve found there’s a real catharsis in the effect of this music and how I approach it.” 

And now having summited the mountainous Alium, he’s now excited to see where he can take his experimental sound next. With future dispatches earmarked on All172Things, Darkmode and the soon-to-relaunch KSS Black, it won’t be long before we hear more pivotal Omina landmarks. The creative journey continues…

Omina – Alium is out now

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