Husband and wife Simon and Erica Angell met whilst appearing on the same bill in separate bands on different European tours. A chance encounter, which led to Erica falling in love with Simons haunting guitar tone and then him, resulting in an unintended but brilliant collaboration: Thus Owls.
The 10-track album’s sound, although not completely dissimilar to their previous EPs Cardiac Malformations and Harbours, seems to have become both more refined and more experimental. The electro-bass of ‘Turning Rocks’ sounds more Post-Punk than Scandinavian-Folk. ‘Thief’ sounds undeniably Desert-Rock and the first track ‘As Long As We Try A Little’, sounds zephyrean, soft and more akin to the sounds I would have previously associated with the quintet. It’s a mixed bag of stylistic approaches but their distinctive sound isn’t lost to this variety.
One of my favourite parts to this EP is a return to the ‘60s keyboard organs that for some reason, never seem to make into as folk as much as they should. The long drawn out gospel notes harmonise beautifully with the long vocals and vivid guitar-tone of the band. This was a sound the couple mutually fell in love with and seem to consciously use to it’s full potential. The band’s keyboardist Parker Shper adjusted admirably to this medium of keys and pairs seamlessly with Simon’s varied but ultimately classic guitar style.
The lyrics in Turning Rocks stem not from romantic idealisms and half-forgotten lovers, but instead are specifically about the memories and feelings attached to Erica’s grandmother and the small house in the small village on Orust, an island in Sweden. ‘Smoke Like Birds’ for example, refers to Erica’s grandmother watching the lights from a naval battle from the coastline during the Second World War. Growing up in the same house in the same village, Erica remarks, “She was a little girl growing up on the exact same land and in the same house as I
did”. This deep affiliation is a modest and beautiful approach to song-writing and refreshingly different.
Erica’s flexible Nordic vocals combine with Simon’s powerfully simple riffs to create an EP intertwined in different styles but ultimately, undoubtedly Thus Owls. The band don’t stray far from the powerful and almost gospel melodies and after two listens to this EP I felt like I’d known it for years.
Words: Joseph Merriman