Wednesday 17 November 2021

The Owl & Dan Clarke - Improv Collab Pt.1

Labels: Self-Released

Formats: Digital

Release Date: 02 Nov 2021


1. The First Euphoric Mammoth

2. From Silence Into A Stupendous Trek

3. Mentally Conjoined Peacefully Warped

4. This Twisted Terrain To Trounce

5. Marching To The Castle

6. If Mountains Had Legs

7. Checking The Guidelines

8. Ecstatic Vision Enablers

9. Crumbling Planets

I apologise for the inactivity over the last week. Things have been a bit weird and those around me have been struggling a bit, especially in work life. it kind of feels like as the seasons have changed and the clocks have gone back, people I know and work with have got sick and in one case, worse. It also meant that I had to miss the farewell gig of my good (but sadly distant) friend Paul, before he jets off to Czechia.

About a week or so ago he sent this collaborative release that he'd recorded with drummer Dan Clarke, one of his longtime friends and musical collaborators. It was recorded at Eiger Studios, Leeds (I have some great memories of noisy shows there!) back in June and it's been tweaked and twisted to form this nine-song release. 

It feels like very much the right time to be listening to this release, albeit a little later than planned. Completely improvisational and recorded on one mic, you can’t get more organic in musical terms. Even with The Owl’s post-recording manipulations, it still sounds and feels eerily like it was meant to be. Album opener ‘The First Euphoric Mammoth’ is a swirling collage of bass and drums that fade in and out amongst layers of organ, and other ambient touches. Dan Clarke is a member of Sloth Hammer and if you’ve witnessed one of their shows before, you’ll know that they’re anything but normal. He brings a part of that band along with him here. Add to that the use of some bizarre electronic effects and you have something totally unclassifiable.

One thing’s for sure with The Owl, the song titles always seem to be spot on with the music as ‘From Silence Into A Stupendous Trek’ illustrates. The song that bears that moniker stretches out for over fifteen minutes, which in musical terms is a stupendous trek! Very doom-laden and sludgy, it’s not gonna get your pulse racing a mile a minute, yet it will reach you in different ways. Ways that will see you painting pictures with your mind. 

From here the songs become shorter but no less enthralling. The brilliantly named ‘Mentally Conjoined Peacefully Warped’ aptly describes the minds at play here. Despite it’s short running time, there’s still something truly harrowing about it and I’ll never get used to the interjections of weird electronic mayhem. Talking of weird electronic mayhem, you might want to replay the intro to ‘This Twisted Terrain To Trounce’ over and over again. It’s followed by noise that’s a lot simpler for the most part, but you’re never too far from strange internet (maybe cosmic) sounds.

Improv Collab Pt.1 is definitely a release that you can listen to all the way through. I’m not sure if that was fully intended but it works out that way. Even if you’re not a fan of instrumental noise, this isn’t harsh and is way more musical. The winding, knuckle-dragging tempos of ‘Marching To The Castle’ plough a somewhat depressing furrow yet you’ll struggle to stop listening.

Things are no brighter on ‘If Mountains Had Legs’, which veers towards The Owl’s sludgier side again, kind of sounding like a weirder version of Meth Drinker (at least in my head anyway). The drumming once again works a treat and the randomly placed electronics stop you from drifting off to another plane. ‘Checking The Guidelines’ is the shortest but also probably the most intense song on the album, at least percussion-wise anyway. The beats and additional effects give it a weird drum n bass feel, with plenty of glitches too.

It’s left to penultimate song ‘Ecstatic Vision Enablers’ to truly scare you with menacing noises that seem to come from all directions. It reminds me of the ‘Kin Hell Fest gig at Temple Works in Leeds back in 2013 where I witnessed Sloth Hammer and their ace live show for the first time. I specifically remember the random piano they found and the noise/electronic oddities they perched on it. Oh and the member in the pig mask walking through the crowd hitting a drum. Good times. 

The album’s closer ‘Crumbling Planets’ seems to follow on directly from ‘Ecstatic Vision Enablers’ musically, albeit with a significantly slower tempo from the bass. It’s a really cool way to end what has been a real journey. I’m not embarrassed to say that it took me two sittings to be able to right this review, which isn’t normal for me. That said, it’s the kind of improv/experimental noise that I like the most. Even with the electronic manipulation, it’s still got a warm organic feel that you only get from instrumentation and human interaction.

Clearly this has been a labour of love and one that lives long in the memory. Perfect for these darker nights and colder outlooks. It’s made me forget that I was feeling down when I started writing. I’m now more reflective and upbeat. Music does strange things to a person. 

I implore you to give this release your full attention, as it demands it. You can listen below via The Owl's bandcamp page, where it's available as a name-your-price download:-

The Owl -

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