Barn Owl: V (Thrill Jockey, 2013)

April 13, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Barn Owl: V

Barn Owl: V

I saw Barn Owl a few years ago at a Not Not Fun showcase at SXSW, and they were okay but didn’t really hold my attention. But since signing to Thrill Jockey (both as a group and for solo projects), their work has been getting unbelievable as of late, and this is easily their best album yet. Previous Barn Owl works were a little more rustic and acoustic, sometimes maybe a bit post-rock, sometimes a bit doom-metal. This one feels a bit more electronic and synthesizer-based, creating a really dark cosmic sound. “Void Redux” opens the album with a slow, deep pulse, sparingly used guitar notes and keyboard trills, and a whole lot of dark atmosphere. “The Long Shadow” is similar, with a clear, melancholy guitar part guiding ghostly atmospherics, distortion, organ, and more slow frozen-heartbeat pulsations. “Against The Night” is a really dark, desolate moment, with more ringing guitar, and bass and synth sweeps that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Burial track. “Blood Echo” has a slightly involved drum pattern, definitely a bit more than just a pulse, guiding the dark, haunted droning. “Pacific Isolation” is a short, slightly doomy instrumental beginning the second side of the album, and then we get the 17 minute epic “The Opulent Decline”. This one starts with a few minutes of layers of dark synth, with some heavy distorted bass tones. Then a slow, minimal drum machine takes over, sounding like drops of water dripping into a well. As the synths and guitars layer, after the 10 minute mark things start to get really heavy, with lots of tremolo effects, lots of thick, sludgy distortion, and a constant slow, thudding heartbeat. Dark and almost overwhelming, and truly stunning.

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