Barn Owl

The Conjurer

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Barn Owl's metier, as readily sensed in their live shows as on album, is about constant change -- while the basic setup of two guitarists remains the same, each release finds its own path. Their 2010 album for Rootstrata finds the duo shifting toward a dark, twangy gloom that freely tips its hat to such forebears as Morricone, Swans, and Earth, among others, suggesting blasted Western landscapes at night, somewhere between the 19th century and the post-apocalypse. The steady grind and echo of "Into the Red Horizon" pumps up that feeling even more with its title, but would likely suggest it on its own, as the core melody steadily unwinds and moves into the no less suggestive "Across the Deserts of Ash," all plucked notes and heavy sustained feedback. The basic mood of the disc doesn't change for its length, but the final song, "Ancient of Days," aims for a slightly gentler but no less compelling approach by starting with acoustic guitar and then shifting into one of the prettiest arrangements the band has yet done, distanced feedback and soft, steady filigrees -- and eventually, simply piano -- sounding much more like 1986 Cocteau Twins than end-of-millennium Godflesh, though a mid-song shift to a slow rhythmic arrangement of those elements adds a little more disturbance. It all comes across as an excellent contrast to many of their more black-Wall-of-Sound releases and performances, exchanging sheer, violent overload for low-key drone and doom that emphasize space and a looming sense of something in the distance drawing all the more near.

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