Digging: Barn Owl – The Conjurer

Barn Owl: The Conjurer
Root Strata (2009)

Barn Owl make the kind of contemplative music that’s perfect for drifting off to sleep. Not in a negative sense, more that their sound is subtle, dreamy and intentionally unobtrusive. Over four tracks, which blend into two lengthy compositions, Barn Owl work with the dusty twang of late-period Earth where guitars sing adagio melodies that have no clear direction but always fall back into themselves,

Across the Deserts of Ash starts out this way, but slowly a distorted drone rises up out of the landscape, swallowing up the pretty guitars in murk. Feedback lingers at the outer edges, threatening but never taking over. The last half of the record revolves around steel-stringed acoustic guitars that pluck out smoky odes to Sir Richard Bishop, before closing out with a sorrowful piano epilogue.

Some might call this post rock, but for me The Conjurer’s lack of quiet vs. loud dynamics places this record further into ambient, even experimental territory. It’s far too pretty to be related to noise, but too unusual for the casual listener. Barn Owl have only a handful of releases to their name, mostly in limited runs on CDr and cassette. From what I understand all 500 vinyl copies of The Conjurer have sold out, but its definitely worth hunting around for a copy if you’re interested.  Root Strata were rumoured to have released this on CD late last year, but as yet that hasn’t happened.

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