Macie Stewart has her hands in so many different musical projects it’s a wonder she finds the time to sleep. She coleads enchanting art-rock band Ohmme, of course, which she cofounded with Sima Cunningham in 2014, but aside from her best-known gig, Stewart plays violin in a duo with cellist Lia Kohl, makes up one-third of improvising trio the Few, and doubles on violin and keyboard in Ken Vandermark’s ensemble Marker. As much as Stewart does with these groups to reinforce the backbone of the city’s loose community of improvising and experimental musicians, it doesn’t account for all of her creative activity. She’s also assisted her compatriots on their recordings; you’ve heard her violin if you’ve listened to V.V. Lightbody’s Make a Shrine or Burn It, SZA’s CTRL, or Whitney’s Light Upon the Lake and Forever Turned Around.
After all the years Stewart has spent shaping sounds with other musicians, it’s a treat to see her focus on her own vision. “I didn’t know who I was or what I sounded like as an individual,” she says in a press release for her new solo debut, Mouth Full of Glass (Orindal). “I was floating aimlessly & feeling like so many of my choices weren’t made for myself, but rather for the people with whom I shared a partnership.” She’s found a better sense of her musical identity by making Mouth Full of Glass, which casts intimate contemplation against flush, quasi-orchestral arrangements. Stewart’s soothing, elastic vocals cleave to brittle fingerpicked acoustic guitars, stentorian pianos, and blooming strings, tying together even her most dramatic compositional shifts and making every song cohere fluidly. To finesse the details of this material, she drew from her vast network of talented friends, but as much as Kohl’s cello, Ben LaMar Gay’s cornet, and Sen Morimoto and Dustin Laurenzi’s saxophones brighten the corners of Mouth Full of Glass, the album shines thanks to Stewart’s magnetic presence and poignant songwriting. On the title track, when her multitracked vocals mirror a swelling string section, it sounds like she knows who she wants to be.
Macie Stewart (Ben LaMar Gay opens on Thursday and Quinn Tsan opens on Friday), Thu 9/23 and Fri 9/24, 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, $5-$15, 21+