Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Experimental Rock, Doom Metal, Dark Ambient
The phrase “beautiful desolation” isn’t often associated with barn owls. For that matter, neither are sci-fi-apocalypses—and you certainly wouldn’t catch someone referring to an owl as both “mystical” and “doomy”. Am I wrong on this last point? And yet, here’s a band named after the barn owl that exemplifies all the characteristics I just mentioned.
For their fifth album V, Bay Area doom drone duo Barn Owl expand their regular array of murky processed guitar tumult by experimenting with various electronic elements in the mix. While the band perfected the sound of an empty, barren desert at night with its previous instrumental offerings, V leans away from the underlying dread and general despair of earlier albums, moving more toward the ominous than the doomed. This transition is apparent with album-opener "Void Redux," an arid mesh of subsonic drum machine thumps, plinky, reverb-coated guitar lines, and an undercurrent of repetitive Terry Riley-informed horn-like sounds phasing through the background.
The wingmen of Barn Owl – Jon Porras and Evan Caminiti – have an uncanny knack of coaxing a hell of a lot of atmosphere out of just their guitars, pedals and amps. They’ve spent the last five years trying out different contortions of their ambient guitar rock from these elements, ranging from the brutal to the sublime, without settling on one exacting formula. Which is great, as you get the sense the San Francisco duo are flying by the seat of their pants.
Though their spectral music specializes in creeping guitar washes and slow drifts toward oblivion, there was no way for the California duo of Barn Owl to maintain the pace they once set. Between September 2009 and September 2011, multi-instrumental conjurers Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras released four full-length albums, each burrowing deeper into a mirage of droning desert blues. During that time, they also issued a brazen, roaring collaborative LP with Ellen Fullman, a composer who suspends wires in rooms to elicit extreme dynamics and radiating overtones.