San Francisco's duo Barn Owl (guitarists Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras, both
raised in metal bands) dreamed up meandering instrumental drumless space-folk
for guitars, bass, banjo, harmonica, synthesizer, organ and drums
on the all-instrumental Barn Owl (Foxglove, 2007). The
twelve-minute The Buffalo Queen is a chaotic aimless gathering of souls.
The guitar meditation of
Driftwood sounds like a psychedelic version of
Dug Up From Deep Down is eight minutes of pure acoustic fingerpicking
in the Fahey vein.
The banjo solo a` la Taj Mahal of Red River Raag, instead, disintegrates into a cloud of dust.
Snow Swamp is another solo, but this time for electric guitar distortions
and reverbs, and aiming for the primal drone.
The Twirling Tusks Of The Mouth Of God juxtaposes the guitar's
soliloquy against fragile shamanic vocals and a burbling
The disheveled blues Toloah and the very dilated hymn Morning Cigarette veered decisively towards psychedelia.
The range of the album is broad, but the guitarists attemp true polyphony only
in one piece.
Bridge To The Clouds (Not Not Fun, 2007),
From Our Mouths A Perpetual Light (Not Not Fun, 2008), with drums,
and containing The Last Parade,
Smoke Loom Ceremony (Blackestrainbow, 2008) began the ritual flood
of low-quality "underground" releases that characterized this subgenres.
Ek Caminiti also released the cassette Buried Light (Digtalis Limited).
Jon Porras also released
Bxogonoas (Digitalis, 2008),
Woven Into Light (Blackest Rainbow, 2009) and
Nemcatacoa (Digitalis, 2009)
under the moniker Elm.
Higuma, the duo of
Barn Owl's Evan Caminiti and Lisa McGee, released
Haze Velley (Root Strata, 2008).
Den Of The Spirits (Digitalis Recordings, 2010)
and especially Pacific Fog Dreams (Root Strata, 2011).
Barn Owl sank into a cathartic form of depression on
the more atmospheric and ethereal
The Conjurer (Root Strata, 2009).
After the martial introduction of Into The Red Horizon (the only piece
to feature drums), Across The Deserts Of Ash
intones a disjointed space raga that evolves into a thick blend of vocals and guitar and that ends into ghostly echoes.
The acoustic guitar mumbles a timid story in Procession Of Golden Bones against another wailing guitar, but eventually both are submerged by the cosmic drone and the vocal "om" of Ancient Of Days, the album's peak of pathos.
Transfiguration (Electric Totem, 2009) documents a live gig.
Evan Caminiti launched a solo career with two albums,
Digging The Void (Students Of Decay, 2009) and
Psychic Mud Shrine (Digitalis, 2009), of
languid, dilated hyper-psychedelic music.
The Headlands (Important, 2010) was a collaboration with
the Infinite String Ensemble (Norman Teale on acoustic guitar, vocals and synthesizer, Theresa Wong on cello, and Ellen Fullman on her self-made long-string instrument).
This was a much more ambitious work of austere dronescapes
than the lo-fi amateurish albums that preceded it.
The cosmic tides of Levitation are reminiscent of early
Klaus Schulze as they fluctuate and
progressively incorporate alien sounds.
Light instead sounds like pure mathematics as the timbre and
intensity of the drone changes every so many minutes, the thick shrill drone
of the beginning eventually reduced to a mere metallic vibration.
Foghorns, possibly the most subtle construction on the album,
sounds like the ambient remix of a raga stretched to become
just one shapeless drone around which other cryptic "voices" perform their slow
The folk roots of the early days surface only in Condensation, except
that the jarring guitar tones are soon smothered into galactic whistles
and into a swarm of dark brooding rumbles leading to its tragic ending.
This album was as far removed from Barn Owl's beginnings as an adult can be
from his childhood.
Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey, 2010) is an eclectic collection.
The doomy rumble of Sundown opens the album in the name of
Earth, but the twangy guitar and the wordless wails of Visions In Dust induce psychedelic trance.
The sleepy interlude of Night's Shroud segues into the sidereal drone
of the ten-minute Ancestral Star that soon reveals an
evil face and becomes a soaring tidal wave of heavy sustained guitar tones;
but this too disappears, like a passing comet hurled at a distant galaxy,
and leaves behind only waning dust of sound.
An intermezzo of solo acoustic guitar, Cavern Hymn,
leads to the layered drones of Flatlands, created by Norman Teale's
synthesizer simulating hornpipe and accordion, and its echoes of mantra-like
invocations. At the peak of its religious pathos, the polyphony collapses into
a mostly silent soundscape of sparse guitar tones.
After three brief exoteric aphorisms
(the muffled piano impressionism of Twilight,
the martial ceremony of Awakening,
and the sinister monk choir of Incantation),
the album ends with the macabre wall of drones of
Light From The Mesa.
This feels like a compilation of Barn Owl's favorite techniques. However,
one is left with the feeling that the band did not fully exploit the
powerful ideas that are set forth in every piece.
The EP Shadowland (2011),
with the ethereal, wavering and electronic ten-minute cosmic poem
and the album Lost In The Glare (2011), featuring drummer Jacob Felix Heule, Michael Elrod on tanpura and gong, and Steve Dye on bass clarinet, and containing
the melodramatic bleak dronescape of The Darkest Night Since 1683,
invested in a broad variety of styles and techniques.
Undercurrent (Root Strata, 2011) employs Barn Owl's sound to craft
impressionistic pieces such as
Seascape, Shore and Gaze.
His follow-up, Black Mesa (2012), was terrible poor on ideas and on
Orilla Oscura (Immune, 2012) was an experiment in playing horribly
disfigured guitar sounds against randomly manipulated tapes.
Jon Porras also launched Dvvllxns with the
EP Lxtvny (Shelter Press, 2012), this time influenced by witch house.
Meanwhile, Evan Caminiti's West Winds (Three Lobed, 2010) contains
Night Of The Archon and the
ten-minute Black Desert Blooming, while his
When California Falls Into The Sea (Hand Made Birds, 2011)
is a collection of intimate guitar meditations.
Night Dust (Immune, 2012) is just about the opposite, an eclectic,
post-psychedelic and wildly experimental parade of different unorthodox styles.
Dreamless Sleep (Thrill Jockey, 2012) collects electronic manipulations
of home-made guitar compositions that begin to sound like the new-age music of
Barn Owl and Eternal Tapestry collaborated as
Garden Sound on the lengthy doom dirges of
Black Summit (Digitalis, 2010).
V (Thrill Jockey, 2013) contains the 17-minute The Opulent Declin).
Colonial Donuts (Palilalia, 2015) documents a collaboration between Harry
Pussy's guitarist Bill Orcutt and Barn Owl's drummer Jacob Felix Heule.
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