published on A Closer Listen
Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras have been exploring the more electronic facets of textural guitar compositions on a lot of solo outings, and they really bring it all together on their fifth Barn Owl album. The San Francisco duo’s provocative ambiance is an invitation to city dwellers to explore their roots, the call back to the wild, to the unknown. With V, the vision is even grander and yet more simplified.
Barn Owl took advantage of the studio as an instrument, composing each part separately with a fine toothed comb. As the fuzzy synths and ebowed guitars raise the clouds, V’s rhythms slowly sculpt the geology. They are at times pulsating well beneath the album’s vast sonic landscape, and at others they are a dynamic set of gears over top. Pretty and a bit disarming, the album behaves like an unpopulated earth millions of years in the past. Barn Owl’s recent exploration of rhythm has opened a new dimension to their sound, and on V the effect is highly grounding, making for a more dynamic and even holier listening experience than in albums’ past.
An eerie tone on “Void Redux” draws the curtain. Shooting stars disintegrate, and the thrum of a dark synth uncoils. The desert rock aspect makes Barn Owl an awesome choice to watch landscapes to, and if you sit still long enough things start to happen. Drum sticks rap and echo and the simplest of guitar plucks establish an evolutionary pace. It’s easy to imagine lava in canyons, wind-torn archaeopteryx eggs, and such, but then a lone human voice sails in like a pale sun. This promise of human life firmly grounds us in the magic of V.
Each track blooms and burns with many layers. Organ and guitar weave “The Long Shadow” while electronic storms form icicles in “Against The Night.” The tectonic apex comes with “Blood Echo,” a track which is captivating on its own, but within the album’s context it is a revelation. Rising with a rolling cymbal and ritualistic chimes, the first ominous life forms begin to take shape and lumber into view, like a Diplodocus made of burning embers. The synthetic temperature rises and what unfolds is as majestic as it is intimidating. Here the percussion takes on a sumptuous leading role as the synths helix and divide into the cosmos. Barn Owl are in total command.
In entertaining the idea of creating “doom dub” for years, the band has now created a very strong narrative, one that enthralls with a momentum uncanny for music that is “slow”. Each piece changes color and timbre throughout, so no two moments are alike. Like the earth, this music is constantly shifting. The drums Barn Owl introduced on 2011’s Lost In The Glare are now fully realized and integrated beautifully. This is without a doubt their best album to date.