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- Shadowland by Barn Owl
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It feels as though little time has elapsed since Barn Owl's debut for Thrill Jockey, the excellent Ancestral Star, and then came a collaborative LP on Important records with Infinite String Ensemble. Now they return to Thrill Jockey with a three track EP that precedes a full length scheduled for later in the year. If this taster is anything to go by then that's looking to be quite a record. Here Evan Caminiti plays guitar, vocals and SK-1 while Jon Porras is armed with a Juno 60 synthesizer, guitar and piano. Beginning with 'Void and Devotion' Shadowlands opens in fine style with a hypnotic music box type chiming synth motif over which washes of guitar gradually build creating a thrilling sense of suspense and tension. These guys have really mastered the art of creating a sense of impending doom which somehow manages to feel ecstatic. This really induces that mysterious feeling that something hugely dramatic is going to happen but you're never sure what or when. It's like a sunny desert landscape suddenly turning grey as thick black clouds pass over the sun, eclipsing it and leaving a bleak wasteland where you expect all sorts of Mad Max type nomads to emerge with balls and chains. The title track has them in prime devotional mode with repetitive piano keys whipping up a hypnotic storm, full on mantra style like Om "unplugged" and then the guitar sneaks in quite comfortably threatening to take things to the murky zone but instead shifts the dynamic into a blissed psychedelic vibe. I've probably said this a zillion times before but these guys really do balance dark and light with utmost skill. 'Infinite Reach' comprises the second side of the record and it begins fairly low-key with lush synth orchestrations and some really moving low end bass rumbling, then some searing guitar work hits the mix amongst some effects-smothered disembodied vocals creating a totally blissed sonic landscape. Towards the end some bluesy guitar work eases you gently back to earth. As powerful as anything in the Barn Owl canon and nicely recorded by Phil Manley. Edition of 750 copies on 150g vinyl with download code.
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