For their first album since 2005’s acclaimed Pale Ravine, the Norwegian duo of Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland, known as Deaf Center, moves beyond the low-fidelity experimentalism of its past toward a more vibrant veneer enhanced by high-end analog engineering gear. The end result is the spectacular Owl Spinters, eight compositions of shimmering black ambience that boast a powerful new sense of grandiosity and catapult Totland’s piano and Skodvin’s cello to an entirely new realm of treated majesty. Owl Splinters has the veiled optimism of an overcast sky with just enough clear areas to allow rays of sun to shine through; it brings the duo’s cacophonous fusion of horror and romance to its most fully realized incarnation yet.
Beginning with the dark feedback tones and squalls on "Divided," matched later in the song with what sounds like wordless male calls and chants from somewhere in a deep cave, Owl Splinters would seem on first blush to be an album in that entire vein -- no sin, since there are enough performers in the world who work within a focused vein throughout a release. But when Deaf Center start the next song, "Time Spent," with a gentle, reverb-heavy piano part instead, it's a good demonstration that it's not going to be entirely monochromatic, though Owl Splinters is definitely of a conceptual piece in the end. Texture is ultimately the dominant force on the album, no matter the volume or source, and hearing how the possibilities are explored song for song within the context of contemplation and hunkering down against a kind of impending threat can be very rewarding.
In 2005, the duo of Erik K. Skodvin and Otto Totland released Pale Ravine, their first full-length LP under the moniker Deaf Center. Of its ilk, the album was a critical and commercial success, providing the then nascent Type label with one of its first major successes. Much has occurred between Pale Ravine’s release and now — several Skodvin solo releases as Svarte Greiner, the first CD release from Erik’s Miasmah label, an Otto Totland LP with Nest — but Deaf Center were conspicuously silent throughout.
Ohayo If you are without air-conditioning this summer, get yourself a copy of Ohayo’s “The State We Are In.” Ohayo is a new band made up of the three Swedish musicians who normally work with El Perro del Mar, the one-woman project of the singer Sarah Assbring. With her they make saturnine but identifiable pop; this record, slow and shimmery and entirely instrumental, functions differently. The songs sort out into melodies but don’t need hooks; you’re never waiting for something to happen.