Thus Owls at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
Saturated with dry ice, framed by deep red lighting and the atmospheric throb of static noise, Thus Owls take to the stage with their appearance so attuned to the indigenous hipsters of Hoxton that it feels like they might have just strolled in from the nearest juice bar. Halfway through the set, the guitarist even takes the time to sing the praises of a pulled pork sandwich vendor, to concurring nods from many in the audience.
Appearances aside, though, this three-piece band hail from Sweden. They released their third album Turning Rocks earlier in the year, though judging by the thin but approving assembly of fans, they remain something of a niche concern.
The light-handling sprawl of the songwriting lends itself well to visualisation, easily evoking images of fjords, icy glaciers and Scandinavian pine forests. Indeed, all the songs are, we are told, stories vocalist Erika Angell’s grandmother told her of the village of Orust, a Swedish island just north of Gothenburg. Their influences are worn like proud garments; predominantly PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, Talk Talk and Portishead, whose track The Rip they cover very assuredly late on in their set.
Guitarist Simon Angell appears to be a well-accomplished architect of his own sound, layering jagged riffs alongside shimmering arpeggiated chords drenched with tremolo and other effects. Similarly, drummer Stefan Schneider provides a firm substructure to the songs, with several intricate and intriguing rhythm patterns. Meanwhile, vocalist/leyboardist Erika plays a host of vintage instruments, from Formica organ to an autoharp that lends incandescent colour to the highlight of the set How in My Bones.
The overriding impression is that these individual strengths are most effective in isolation as separate composites, and fail to coagulate together as an entirely satisfying whole. There are a couple of promising breakdowns that dissolve into early Pink Floyd-esque psychedelic swirling, but seem to lack the spinal column necessary to prevent them drifting into abstract noodling.
It may well be the case that the studio is the best environment for the transfusion of these musicians’ separate talents, as in a live setting the necessary alchemy bringing them to an engaging unity is mysteriously elusive.
Photos: Zak Macro
For further information about Thus Owls and future events visit here.
Watch the video for How in My Bones here: