Friday, 8 July 2011

Recommended music: 'Owl Splinters' by Deaf Center

Recently I've found myself becoming addicted to Scandinavian things. First of all it was 'The Killing', a 20-part subtitled Norwegian crime drama featuring the marvellously morose detective Sarah Lund and a darkly convoluted storyline in which atmospheric scenery played as much a part as the actors. Now it's the turn of 'Owl Splinters', the second full-length release from Norwegian duo Deaf Center. It's a record that could easily function as the soundtrack to 'The Killing' - it's equally dark and atmospheric, and evokes a big and brooding landscape.

The music made by Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland as Deaf Center has been given many labels - ambient, modern classical (iTunes classifies it as dance & DJ!) - basically it's hard to categorise into an existing genre. The modern classical label no doubt derives from Skodvin's cello playing, but it's hard to remember when a cello was last used with such versatility. Yes, at times it sounds like a cello, but at others it's used to create a disturbed sense of atmosphere.

So what can you expect when you listen to the record? There are long, at times epic, instrumentals featuring the pair creating powerful, widescreen sounds that come with an oppressive air of menace. Set against these are brief chinks of light in the form of short pieces where either Totland's piano or Skodvin's cello are given room to breathe. Even so there's still a slightly claustrophobic air to these tracks - a bit like a fairytale, they are light on the surface but with dark undercurrents.

The album's centrepiece is 'The Day I Would Never Have', a ten minute long opus which starts gently enough. The piano is slowly overtaken by the cello, before a dense cloud of sound and feedback builds and loops, sucking you in to the gloom. Two minutes before the end of the track the cloud suddenly breaks, leaving just a soothing piano over quiet crackles, like a long threatened storm that suddenly dissipates with a brief, refreshing shower.

The whole record is so cinematic it makes me wish I could make a feature film, just so that I could use this as the soundtrack. You can listen to the whole album on the stream below.

Deaf Center - Owl Splinters by _type


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