Now Owl – Under, Open, Heaven, Outside

I’ll be honest with you, I cringe with anticipated guilt whenever anything really beautiful drops onto the Song, by Toad doormat, seeking a review.  I fucking love it when bands take real care over the package in which they present their music, as I hope you can tell by the releases on our own label, but I get twitchy as hell when they give me that same package for free hoping I might wish to review it.

Basically, if I hate what they have done, which has a 99% chance of happening, based on what I get sent at the moment, then that lovingly assembled artifact has been wasted.  Kilter Records had it right with eagleowl – they gave me the mp3s for free, but I paid for my copy of the 7″ single.

So imagine the stab of fear I felt when this dropped through my letterbox.  Honestly, I think it is the most beautifully packaged piece of music it has ever been my privilege to own, and inevitably I was terrified that I might hate it.  Needlessly terrified, it turns out.

I think the term that best describes my relationship with the music of Now Owl is fascination.  Or maybe intrigue.  Or just a quizzically raised eyebrow, I’m not sure.  It’s not pop music, but it is certainly not going to surprise any of you that I like it.  There are experimental aspects to it, it borders on ambient at times, and there is a lot of meandering which has no really obvious direction or purpose, but for some reason it manages to maintain a spring in its step, and it never becomes heavy or dreary.

On a purely technical level, there is good use of instruments like the banjo, whose rattling pluck can cut through the murkiest of atmospheres.  It’s more than that though.  Even when the songs are awash with slow burning ambient noise, being stirred slowly as if it were syrup, there is often a burst of something twinkly, from the keyboards or the computer itself, or a brief flourish of something high-tempo, if still low-key.

Put simply, William Edmonds of Now Owl may not exactly write pop songs per se, but in his use of texture, tone and pace he has a real knack for bringing ingenuity and interest to his music.  He manages to hold your attention better than a hell of a lot of people making this kind of stuff and he does it, I think, by varying the level of urgency with the tracks he layers.  Something low and moany is frequently joined by something skittish and nervous and, without changing what was there before, it twists what you think you’re listening to into something else all of a sudden, and these shifts of perception make this music really engaging.

It’s still not music I’d wave my arms over or get excited about, funnily enough.  It’s more, I think, stuff that I would put on if I particularly wanted to listen to it.  All of it, at once, with a cup of tea and nothing else happening around me.

Now Owl – The Gravel, the Stone and the Marble

Now Owl – Your Body, a Sea of Feathers

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