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Posted on June 1st, 2011 (9:39 am) by Bo Smothers

Much like bringing a seashell to one's ear evokes very much using very little, minimalist duo Barn Owl's latest EP, Shadowland, is an expansive, rhythmic and sometimes overwhelming sonic sea created almost solely with guitar and synth. As with the seashell phenomenon, Shadowland may fascinate at first, but the undertow of its incessant, cyclical current carries a danger of pulling you out too far. It's lush, haunting and hypnotic, and for trance and ambient fans, it's sure to be a hit.

Clocking in at just under 24 minutes, Shadowland, which is due out June 21st, may be short, but the individual songs – of which there are just three – are very long, with the last track, “Infinite Reach”, taking the crown at 10:51. While listeners of the more musically-linear persuasion may find the album uninteresting, there is much to say for what musicians Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras, who make up Barn Owl, have under the proverbial hood of their latest work.

Composed of guitar that's sometimes smooth, enveloping and almost suffocating, sometimes reverberatory, rumbling and full of feedback, and always extremely delay-heavy, along with cool, lush synth washes and barely discernible bass waves, the album's three songs sound extremely similar at first. In fact, the first time I listened through it, I couldn't have told you where one song stopped and another began. In a word, the album is hypnotic. This is the type of music you can be mindless to, meditate to, fall deeply asleep to, and it's done in an artful fashion.

However, as a counterpoint to that, because it's done so artfully, and stands out, if not prominently, then at least sufficiently from the rest of the trance pack, it sometimes is too much to handle. The guitar has a distinctly monolithic feel to it, and often towers above the listener, making them feel cornered, and at the most extreme of times, even a bit unsafe. It actually reminds me quite acutely at times of the less coherent of The Velvet Underground's songs, such as “Heroin”, insomuch that the music isn't exactly comforting. It's a bit lost – hair-raising even. That, coupled with the admittedly repetitive nature of the album, in which, according to the band, “cyclical themes were explored heavily: mantric guitar processions, swelling bass waves, and fluttering tremolo hypnotism,” comes together to make an album that is undeniable artistic, and savagely beautiful, but also one that is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. In fact, I'd bet it's not most people's cup of tea.

It's textured, it's thematic, it's beautiful and most of all it's hypnotic. It reminds me of music for a bad dream. And I truly mean that in the best possible way. I recommend this album only to veterans of the genre, you brave soldiers will find a new love in this music. Others may find themselves quickly lost in the labyrinths of Barn Owl's Shadowland, and it's not a good place to be if you don't want to be there.

Track List:

1. Void and Devotion
2. Shadowland
3. Infinite Reach

Barn Owl: Shadowland
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

63 / 100
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