Deaf Center: Owl Splinters (Type)
The Norwegian duo of Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland released their second full-length album at the turn of the year, and they’ve really outdone themselves. Skodvin has been quite busy on his own with releases as Svarte Greiner and under his own name, not to mention running the Miasmah label. Totland has also kept busy with his other project Nest, and the pair’s respective business has likely explained the long break between their debut Pale Ravine in 2005 and this new collaboration. Good things come to those who wait, though; Owl Splinters is leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor in focus, execution and quality. It’s easily the best ambient/drone/soundtrack album to come out in years. Brevity is on the duo’s side here, with eight very focused, discrete pieces of music that work well as a whole but never overstay their welcome, clocking in just over 40 minutes total. Skodvin’s textural cello work from his other projects creeps in here, but it’s tempered by arrangements that are less severe. The dirtier timbre of Svarte Greiner recedes as Totland’s piano playing brings more of a distinct musicality into focus. As a result there is an ebb and flow between tense drones (“Close Forever Watching”), string textures (“Animal Sacrifice”) and very delicate, spacious melodic touches (“Time Spent,” “New Beginning (Tidal Darkness)”). The sounds are very, very dark, but not aggressive, hanging in a cloud of malaise without really swelling into anything that could qualify as noise or harshness. It’s this deft maneuvering of mood that makes Owl Splinters such an impressive piece of work, truly excellent from start to finish.