Owl soars solo on seductive cosmic flight.
Spencer Grady 2012
As slow-motion psych maestros Barn Owl, San Franciscans Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras craft sounds akin to a Martian spaghetti western, noxious vapours snaking alien-like around desolate desert twangs. Vibes are generally ominous, recalling the doom-laden Americana of the increasingly Ennio Morricone-obsessed Earth, or even the macabre minimalism of drone’s dark lords, Sunn O))).
But when the Owls fly their nest it’s usually in search of habitats less gloomy, and so it is with Dreamless Sleep. Despite retaining many of the same elements – immersive drones, submerged chorales and pealing chords – this is an album cast, for the most part, in lighter hues. Whereas Barn Owl make movie music for death rites and funereal marches, here the passages glisten with an effervescing glory; cascades drop like sherbet streams tumbling fizz bombs full of Fennesz-flavoured popping candy.
Caminiti seems fully aware of the perils and pitfalls of the nu-new age, thwarting any such comparisons by rousing his near-ambient flows with radiant beams of six-string sustain. Launching luminous beads out into the swirling ether, he dispels the banality of the chill-out room, providing tracks such as Leaving the Island and Bright Midnight with their distinctive aura.
There’s a quasi-spiritual charge coursing throughout these tracks that readily brings to mind Popol Vuh’s soundtrack work for the films of Werner Herzog. The suspenseful analogue synth and guitar combos of Absteigend mark out the same remote ritualistic spaces for arcane devotion, drawing a narrative potency from its billowing purple winds, artificial avian chatter and the heartbeats of approaching Nephilim. Elsewhere, Becoming Pure Light introduces a heavenly choir in the midst of swelling tides of chorded fuzz, delivering a knowing doff of the cap to Vuh’s stunning Aguirre.
On the face of it, Dreamless Sleep appears to be an odd title for an album tailor-made for the nocturnal scouring of subconscious depths. Conversely, consider the Hindu concept of Sushupti (which translates as dreamless sleep) – a mental state enabling communion with spiritual beings, providing means by which the forces of good may overcome the dominions of evil – and it makes total sense.