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Barn Owl: V

img  Tobias Fischer

Barn Owl may not have chosen an epic, associative title for their latest release. This, however, is not to say that V marks an escape from their convincing musical concepts or presents a re-definition of their goals. Instead, it sees the continuation of some important long-term trends within their oeuvre: The reduction of the singular supremacy of guitars and the emancipation of keyboards from their former role as mere providers of mood and background ambience. These measures have resulted in an even stronger sense of floating than on previous efforts, even though the production has remained instantly recognisable, still leaning towards a generous use of reverb and the occasional integration of rudimentary percussion.

To arrive at this feeling of weightlessness, Barn Owl have all but completely avoided distortion and extreme volumes, no longer revelling in the almost doomy eruptions which brought their last two full-lengths to unexpectedly intense climaxes. These moments of release notwithstanding, the duo's music always felt like a sonic landscape expressing an immense wideness, solitude and inertia as well as a complete openness of all senses - similar, perhaps, to a sunset over a huge desert. And although I did enjoy those brutal twists and sonic peaks in the past, the band's decision to forgo them on this occasion makes this otherworldly feeling even stronger – even if, on the first listens, there is an undisputable danger of the details embedded into each of these six pieces going by unnoticed without the presence of the aforementioned hooks capable of disrupting the flow. If V may seem somewhat less immediate than its predecessors, however, it more than makes up for this by inviting the audience to immerse itself even more.

Next to a download code of the album, part of the vinyl run includes an additional CD containing a live performance from the year 2010 as well as 2013's Factory Sessions. While the latter contain surprisingly raw synth / modular synth excursions, the former present Barn Owl's familiar sound – documents of a band in a constant state of gradual transformation.

By Hellmut Neidhardt
Translation by Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Barn Owl
Homepage: Thrill Jockey Records