Monday, 6 December 2010

Barn Owl - Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey)

Ancestral Star is a hard album to review. I have had it for six weeks and have listened to it more times than anything else this year. As the editor of Middle boop will tell you, this review has been an absolute pain the arse to get out; like getting objectivity from Michael Moore.

Ancestral Star is the third album from San Fran duo, Barn Owl and can be very much considered a milestone for the band. This is the first time the duo have had access to a professional studio and this has led to a restrained, but technically complex sound. Despite admitting to improvising many of the drones, there is a sense of orchestration and precision which is very impressive. Each track plays more like a ‘piece’, as if the album is a score to an imaginary film, which only Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras have seen. Reading interviews with the pair highlights the intelligence and artistry that goes into the music. Their process is methodical and idiosyncratic; I can imagine an outside producer becoming very restless working with them. However, this personalization of the music is what makes them so unique and what gives Ancestral Star such a spiritual, tranquil quality.

The biggest compliment I can offer is the relationship between the music and artwork, which is fully in sync. I have found myself listening to the album whilst staring at the artwork and the synchronization between the two, helps elevate the music. This is however, one of my problems. I can’t help, but listen to Ancestral Star as an accompaniment and I am constantly on the lookout for visuals to go with it. As a stand-alone listen, this is a very hard album to get into. Is this a criticism? It’s hard to say, as I do become immersed into this world, but it never takes me to that ‘special’ place. This is a very personal reaction to the music and I feel everybody should listen to Ancestral Star and see what it does for them.

Words : David Campion

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