Sunday, 1 December 2013

Thus: Owls 2013

Thus: Owls  |  M For MTL

                PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

The first week of winter in Montreal is never easy. The cold is menacing and the wind gnaws at your bones.

I know, of course, that in a few weeks this will just seem normal – but right now it hits me like a sharp, icy slap to the face. I'd be lying if I said I wanted to be anywhere other than curled up under a pile of ten blankets. And because venturing out – anywhere – seems like a massive undertaking, I think, I hope it's worth it, as I tug on my boots, walk down the freshly-winter-carpeted stairs, and head to Sala Rossa.

And it's worth it. Thus: Owls are really, really good. They're unlike anyone I've heard before. It's easy to mark a band as unclassifiable, or to talk about someone having a really unique sound. But it's rare when a band fits the originality bill so well as it does here. You could crawl through a thesaurus and still not emerge with enough adjectives to adequately describe the sound.

This is not to say Thus: Owls are completely wacky; they're not aggressively experimental or intent on assembling blips and bleeps into makeshift melodies. Their sound is from this world, not another one. It's classic, it's familiar, and yet it is still entirely new.

The first thing I notice is the drum beat. It pounds through the room. Then there is guitar, and bass, and piano. The music is not soft, and it could never be classified as background noise. It commands your full attention. Erika Angell's voice weaves everything together. It's incredibly clear, simultaneously icy and warm.

The Swedish-Canadian band's sound is also decidedly Nordic. The chords sound familiar; I feel nostalgic for woods and snow. It's the music that would be playing if you wander off into the forest on a wooden Swedish horse. It's what escaping into a Jan Brett book would sound like. It's winter music, and it's warming.

But the sound is not all magical and idyllic. Simon Angell's maddening guitar gives the songs an element of excitement, an edge of euphoria. It makes the sound dense, knotted, and loud. Rock 'n roll. The folk-soaked landscape never disappears, though. This music keeps you on your toes. The whirlwind of voices and instruments spaces out into an echo, but it's not too long before the sound grows strong and loud again.

It's invigorating. Like the cold, it rattles your bones – but in the best possible way.

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