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- Owl Splinters by Deaf Center
What is it with these two? I thought they were some sort of IDM/ambient duo 'till recently when I belatedly clocked their rather wonderful 'Pale Ravine' CD. Now on 'Owl Splinters' we've a reputation about to go stellar. This is a really powerful, dense sounding record. Opening with a hearty chunk of thundering dark ambient drone, 'Time Spent' follows, which is a wistful Satie-esque piano piece that wouldn't sound out of place on a Nils Frahm outing. Things get even darker after that, becoming real deep & foreboding. Spooked textures & eerie frequencies hover & entwine round your mind whilst the bottom end of a piano thunks menacingly & looped found-sound rustles and click-clacks beneath. Even when this fully-flourished Eno-like piano ventures out into the picture, you still cannot escape the weighty tragedy this piece evokes. The centrepiece is a 10 minute outing called 'The Day I would Never Have' which trips from melancholic piano and organic scrunch into an all-enveloping cosmic drone piece which weighs in somewhere between Sunn O))) and Natural Snow Buildings. The low-end on this almost sounds like throat singing or a down-tuned didgeridoo - proper unsettling in the most satisfying way. 'Owl Splinters' is a head-fuckingly dark & majestic masterpiece with some welcome moments of ponderous relief! I'd totally recommend headphones for this sonic-noir head trip. I totally understand how important this duo are now! Miss this at your peril, no messing!
10/10 Dipesh parmar Customer review, 7th February 2011
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.
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