BAND OF THE WEEK: OWL

27 May

We’ve spent little time considering the origin or objectives of Oakland’s Owl, nor their connection to the mythological wisdom of their namesake. What we have done instead is spend time playing their weird, heavy music at mythologically high volume.

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Owl is a strange bird, a description we think the band would be comfortable with, and one that is meant in strictly complimentary fashion. Theirs is a flight that takes place high, high, high in the sky, on a dual wingspan of simplicity and oddity. And each time we think a standard flight pattern of this Owl has been established, their direction changes – sometimes subtly, sometimes in a way that makes our head rotate in an almost complete circle.

Odd as Owl may be, odds are your initial head movement will not be of the semi-circular nature, but straight north-and-south. Their sound will be familiar, even comforting, to the sons and daughters of Sabbath – and perhaps even more so to the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters of Sabbath.

But it’s not just that with Owl. Appropriate to their Bay Area headquarters, the Owl flight gets even higher, as the band seems to have huffed the fumes of both the dead and the possessed that have preceded them. Indeed, the opening song on their free four-song demo, appears to quote directly from the early, teeth-rattling days of Metallica – bringing to mind “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” as soundtracked by “Kill ‘Em All.”

Uncontrolled might be one word used to describe the  sound – though the last thing the knowledge of this Owl needs is to be controlled. Unhinged is closer to what we hear – a born-to-go, biblical bombast, a Sabbath-screech fueled for flight by the freaky friendship of Lilith and her owls.

All of these echoes of the past could be transmitted as pastiche if not for a particular power of Owl – one that we might grandly term with gross pretense as “passionate presence.”

Download “Glaurung” by Owl

The passion in this sense should be read as an emotion unable to be controlled, and the presence being the here and now of this Owl flight. The monolithic, metallic meditations of these mofo’s music worms its way up from the Glaurungian-graveyard of smashed vacuum-tubes, rising too high in the sky to offer bended-knee to the fierce riff-rituals of their forefathers and mothers, soaring with a sound sacred and profane at once.

Purely possible, of course, that we’re just easily entranced by wonton wah-wah abuse, suffering from a sort of sonic Stockholm-syndrome. Either way, that’s what we call a “win-win.” Brothers and sisters of the Apes, it’s time to fly with the Owl brotherhood.

Owl

“By contrast, the sludge-brained anomie of stoner noir is just what it looks like: the rudderless yawing of youth culture on the morning after the ‘60s. It’s the numb realization that the tide that carried in the counterculture’s utopian dreams and cries for social justice has ebbed away, leaving the windblown scum of Altamont and My Lai, the Manson murders and the Zodiac Killer. Stoner noir stares back at you with the awful emptiness of the black-hole eyes in a Smiley Face.Have a Nice Decade. As late as the mid-‘70s, the iconography of rebellion®, at least in the tract-home badlands of Southern California, was a politically lobotomized version of hippie: the bootleg records, blacklight posters, underground comix, patchouli oil, and drug paraphernalia retailed at the local head shop.

But stoner noir isn’t just the burned-out roach of ‘60s youth culture. It’s equally the toxic mental runoff of suburban sprawl: dirthead existentialism. It’s the psychological miasma that hung, like the sweetly rotten reek of Thai stick, over adolescent psyches battered by divorce, lives dead-ended in high school, torpid afternoons bubbled away in a Journey to the Bottom of the Bong. Stoner noir is the default mindset of teenage wasteland: life seen through a glass pipe, darkly.” 

Mark Dery, “Facebook of the Dead

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