Album Review: Autumn Owls – Between Buildings Toward The Sea

581414_10151091301252157_799439999_nAfter five years together, and two acclaimed EPs (‘Insomnia Lodge’ and ‘On The Trail Of The Disappearing’, both released in 2008), Dublin trio Autumn Owls have finally taken time off from almost incessant live work to plunge into full-length album territory, with this debut opus, recorded in Chicago with Brian Deck, best known for his work with the likes of Califone, Modest Mouse and Iron And Wine.

‘Between Buildings Toward The Sea’ is a strange, haunting experience, inhabiting territory somewhere between ambient indie electronica and dark folk, with its strangely hypnotic rhythms and minimalist song structures.

I use the word ‘minimalist’ advisedly.  While the song construction is, by and large just that, there is also a darkness and intensity to the 12 tracks, layers of related melodies built one upon the other, such as on the dystopian psychedelia of ‘Spider’, which echoes the likes of Syd Barrett, Nick Drake and Jan Garbarek in its use of transient, almost transcendental, harmonies.

There are moments where it is very claustrophobic, such as on the thoughtful ‘Drink The Wine’ and the nihilistic ‘Patterns’ (which also has very faint echoes of Muse, especially in Gary McFarlane’s vocal patterns), and others where it just flows along on a sea of tranquil, progressive ambience, such as ‘Great Atlantic Drift’.

This is not an album which can be described, by any stretch of the imagination, as ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’:  ‘brooding’ and ‘poetic’ (in places), definitely ‘introverted’ and ‘introspective’ but avoiding the dreaded ‘shoe-gazing’.  Hard-going in places, and probably an album that I won’t revisit too quickly but rewarding and, yes, surprisingly enjoyable (especially when accompanied by a bottle of damn fine cabernet sauvignon…).

‘Between Buildings Toward The Sea’ is out now on the Epitonic imprint and can be bought on Amazon.

For more information on Autumn Owls, visit their official Facebook.

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