Friday, 11 April 2014

THUS OWLS - ALBUM REVIEW

Thus Owls - Turning Rocks (Secret City Records) 
Thus Owls - Turning Rocks

Release Date: 7th April 2014

Before I go any further with this, I am slightly disturbed that Thus Owls have managed to incorporate a painting of my Nan's face as their album artwork. I mean, it's a lovely tribute to her in this, the year of her (and my Grandad's) 70th wedding anniversary, but are they doing this for every blogger? Individually designed artwork based around the senior members of the writers family? Weird. Dedicated but weird. "But what of the music?" I hear you ask. This, this of the music. The part Swedish, part Canadian collective kick off the album with 'As Long As We Try A Little', a piano based tune with delicate vocals that gently grows in a way that Tori Amos would be proud of. Things get a little slinkier on 'How, In My Bones' was a sashaying bass line and a teasing rhythm under the seductive siren call of the wonderfully named Erika Angell. Now, the start of 'Bloody War' is bonkers and beyond description but as the song unfolds I am reminded of the likes of Kimbra or PJ Harvey in terms of their penchant for off-kilter rhythms and jazz influenced structures.

There is an ominous low thrum at the beginning of 'A Windful Of Screams' which never lets up until the song gives way to the gentles vocal harmonies that lead in to 'Ropes' where Angell once again channels her best Tori Amos blended with more than a little Kate Bush. Album title track 'Turning Rocks' starts with a synth tapping out some kind of morse code before the drones get bigger and more biblical as the message becomes more urgent. 'Smoke Like Birds' makes use of some understated but complexly layered keyboard melodies while 'White Flags Down' has a coquettish charm that Regina Spektor has perfected in recent years. Penultimate track 'Could I But Dream That Dream Once More' is pure Flaming Lips meets Arcade Fire bonkersness and is almost certainly not of this world...in a good way. Putting 'Thief' at the end of the album must have been an easy choice as it has such an apocalyptic feel that nothing could really come after its dead, desolate tones and sparse rhythm. I'm not quite sure where to place this album in terms of genre - I think it wants to be avant garde pop but there are more elements to it than that as it takes in goth, indie and a hint of the neo-classical in some of the arrangements. Interesting and beautiful in equal measure.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/ThusOwls?fref=ts

Live Dates:

11th April - Petit Champlain, Quebec
21st April - Maison Des Arts De Laval, Laval
1st July - Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa

10th July - SherBlues & Folk Festival, Sherbrooke

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