Deaf Center's debut 'Pale Ravine' is still one of my favourite albums, so having to wait 6 years for another album had better be worth the wait. Thankfully, i wasn't disappointed!
'Owl Splinters' continues Deaf Center's fascination with dark imagery and mysterious worlds of gloom and terror. This new album is actually far less musically daunting then its predecessor. 'Owl Splinters' is a more refined beast, the production is simply superb. The sounds are sharper, there is more space for the music to breath, instrumentation is sparser. But this certainly doesn't diminish the power of the music, if anything it's even more oppressive. This album begs to be played loud.
'Divided' opens the album with a layered orchestral drone, twisted strings, building slowly with a backdrop of eerily distant choir vocals, abruptly ending in a mysterious shuddering bass which scares the hell out of you. Now that's how to start an album! 'New beginning' pulses with scattered strings before a dense echoed piano midway through appears, seething in reverb.
The album's highlight is the epic 'The day i would never have'. Flickering sounds from field recordings, reminiscent of Richard Skelton's fabulous 'Landings' album, gentle raindrops on a gloomy wet landscape, droned strings slowly permeating through. A delicate piano motif holds everything together until the strings and the drone become heavier and louder, tumbling into each other forming a dense mass which suffocates everything. But just like a cloud, the mass of noise is gone, the peace returns, you can hear the rain and all manner of unknown noises reappearing before it all ceases. A breathtaking piece, beautifully constructed, epic and frightening in equal measure.
Deaf Center comprises of Norwegians Nils Frahm, who plays the piano, and Erik Skovdin, who plays the cello. The sparse musical landscapes allow more of an emphasis on their individual skills and performances, either combining or fighting for our attention, or more frequently playing solo. Both 'Time Spent' and 'Fiction Dawn' are both fragile piano pieces, offering rays of light in an often dark terrain. 'Animal Sacrifice' is a deeply harrowing piece using bowed strings.
Deaf Center have added a delicacy and depth to their sound, more in tune with recent modern classical composers such as Olafur Arnalds, Keith Kenniff, Richard Skelton, and Murcof. 'Pale Ravine' sounded claustrophobic, 'Owl Splinters' feels more like a release, a new beginning.
An astonishing achievement and deeply moving, 'Pale Ravine' may have defined Deaf Center but "Owl Splinters' could well be their masterpiece.