Barn Owl’s 2011 release, Lost In The Glare, was an instant love for me and earned a deep place in my heart with hardly any effort at all. I had been longing to see the Northern California duo since, and during the wait, my expectations had been growing higher.

In early November, Thrill Jockey Records threw one of four 20th Anniversary shows at Mississippi Studios in Portland. It boasted a seven act lineup of Trans Am, Liturgy, Eternal Tapestry, Barn Owl, Golden Retriever, Mike Scheidt, and Jason Urick, and finally put my expectations for Barn Owl to the test. They certainly passed, by putting on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen at Mississippi Studios.

With a largely improvised set — I presume — Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras showed off their electronic-leaning new sound, and wonderfully blew out of proportion what is perhaps most compelling about their music: their ability to engage contradiction by transforming gnarly, noisy sonics into the most heartwarming sounds possible, and their ability to effortlessly send one reeling through time and landscapes eternal.

November 9th, 2012 at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon

 

Lost In The Glare‘s album cover, which Porras revealed was pulled from an old National Geographic photo of Death Valley, is probably why I associate that record with deserts and mystic joruneying. But then there’s more. When it came time in my personal life to find musical inspiration for an intense Egyptian-themed meditation series I had, Lost In A Glare and especially its track “Devotion”, provided a sonic atmosphere that was so appropriate and suited for my intentions it was almost mind-blowing.

This particular evening at Mississippi Studios, Barn Owl brought that sense of journeying to life, as though it were suitable for soundtracking any kind of journey, for uncovering any kind of mystery. The duo’s setup this evening was a change from their previous outputs in that it was largely electronic, with only occasional guitar and bass for dynamic flair. But whether it was moving from thunderous deep and percussive drones into more reserved washes, all of the music seemed to be moving ever forward in one great magnanimous flow. The landscapes evoked in my mind were varied to include arctic tundras and subterranean depths, sci-fi terrains and unknown universes, new, old, and timeless.

Barn Owl are curators of mood, who constantly move forwards towards who knows what goal. Be the sounds borderline terrifying or curiously beautiful, or both at the same time, what I was left with was a desire for exploration and a musical companion to explore it with. As is often the case with psychedelic sounds — but especially with Barn Owl, who seem to have mastered an ability to explore constantly without meandering blindly — the journey is the destination. Indeed.

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