Review Summary: Like a jigsaw of the Mona Lisa with a few pieces missing, Owl Splinters is great if you look at the individual pieces instead of the slightly lacking overall product.
It’s a sad truth that as humans we can only ever judge something from the perspective of what we already know. In this context, this means that, sadly, it’s impossible to give a complete judgement on Owl Splinters
without at least offering passing reference to Deaf Center’s 2005 release, Pale Ravine
. The latter emanates an almost romantic air of quiet isolation in an excellent, although not perfect, display of minimalist ambience. Owl Splinters
charges in the opposing direction, seemingly in an attempt to be everything Pale Ravine
is not. It very nearly succeeds.
From the offset, the listener is thrust into Divided
: a claustrophobic swarm of rumbling horns and screeching strings. The immediate addition of more powerful bass brings with it a crawling sense of oppression; a sure sign that Owl Splinters
will be much darker than its predecessor. After passing this brooding opener, however, there’s a clean piano piece devoid of much of the original tone of the album. It’s startling; it doesn’t quite work. Further on, these two styles are merged and contrasted more successfully, but the fact remains that here is a clear example of things not quite working as intended. This sets the precedent for the album as a whole: the musicianship, ambition and subtlety are present, but Owl Splinters
never really clicks into place.
Individual tracks rarely suffer the same damning ailments, however. The astonishingly grim, rising cacophonies found in The Day I Would Never Have
and Close Forever Watching
paralyse the listener into stunned silenced. Equally as powerful are the delicate displays of pianism in Time Spent
and Hunted Twice
. A few ideas to tend to be recycled, but this barely has an effect on the overall enjoyment of a track.
It seems as if Deaf Center set out with a clear intention on the very dark and oppressive tone and style they wanted to create in Owl Splinters
, but had little idea on how they would tie it together. It's hard to dismiss the notion that this was an attempt to distance themselves from the free-flowing structure of Pale Ravine
, and if that is the case then Owl Splinters
would be far more successful if Deaf Center stayed where they were most comfortable. As here they've overstretched themselves slightly.