Breathe Owl Breathe

Magic Central

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Jauntily mysterious seems to be the emotion of the day on Breathe Owl Breathe's Magic Central, which starts with "Own Stunts," a song that balances a rollicking stomp of a chorus with a gentle, distanced air, due to singer Micah Middaugh having a bit of Nick Drake to him. Said chorus is wordless -- pianos, strings, and just a feeling of space fill and empty the background -- and even the bigger drum stomp later doesn't seem to remove the feeling of potential space, even isolation. There's almost a sense of the electronic/folk hybrids of the 21st century except without the overt electronics -- instead there's a focused, something skittering delicacy that also feels like a live performance throughout. The rolling drum breaks, distant vocal wails, and intimate banjo feel like collages rather than direct playing, something that evolves part by impulse and part by careful planning. There's even a brief shaggy-dog tale about a dragon somewhere between Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Beach Boys, though the song "Dragon" itself is a bass-led, sly snake of a release. Andréa Moreno-Beals adds her own distinct vocal touches, with leads on "Icy Cave Dancers" and other songs varying the sound if not the overall sense of careful randomness. If some elements hover between making the best of what's at hand and replowing furrows -- one track practically repeats the drum pattern from the song just concluded before it -- Magic Central still has its plus points and at times aims for the state alluded to in its title.

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