Thus Owls Turning Rocks

Thus Owls Turning Rocks
8
Taking inspiration from family lore and true events from the island of Orust, in western Sweden, Erika Angell and husband Simon (formerly a founding member of Patrick Watson) offer on Turning Rocks a collection of songs often as dark and suffocating as her native country's long winters.

Opener "As Long As We Try A Little" sets the tone for the album when a thunderous cacophony of dissonant drums and guitars replace the first half of the song's spare arrangement, adding an odd majesty to Erika Angell's tormented vocals. On "Roped," her bewitching voice becomes a desperate howl vying for attention with a vintage farfisa and a wall of syncopated percussion. The six minutes of "Smoke Like Birds" juxtapose her grandmother's account of watching the lights of a naval battle during the Second World War with her deteriorating eyesight over a deeply layered arrangement that is at once terrifying and mesmerizing — it suggests nothing less than Kate Bush fronting OK Computer-era Radiohead. The album also features the dark, menacing "Thief," a duet with Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirk that spoils the rare moment of contemplation that is the elegiac "Could I But Dream That Dream Once More."

While often very catchy (there are hints of ABBA's melodic sense in the hooky chorus of "How, In My Bonus"), Turning Rocks is anything but easy listening. It is a dense, eerie, haunting album that is demanding — perhaps even exhausting at times — but ultimately very rewarding for those who take the time to immerse themselves in the duo's cryptic storytelling. (Secret City)