Eagleowl - This Silent Year
Languorous chamber-pop full of silence, distortion and exquisite humour
Here are a few clues that this is a rare and unhurried debut album: it starts with a beat, and then the beat slows down; the instruments come in one by one; the opening words are ‘some other time’. The album’s centrepiece is in fact its penultimate song, ‘Too Late in the Day’, an orchestral, slowcore wig-out in excess of 12 minutes long. Oh, eagleowl! You were worth the wait. Here’s to your languorous chamber-pop, your making more with less, and your doing things right, not fast.
Eight years since their formation as a duo (singer-songwriter Bart Owl and violin buccaneer Malcolm Benzie), then a trio (with double bassist Clarissa Cheong), eagleowl have gradually evolved into a swoon-inducing six-piece, thanks to organ/harmonium guy Rob St John, Hannah Shepherd (cello) and inestimable sticksman Owen Williams (drums). Following a couple of excellent EPs, their inaugural album, co-produced by FOUND whiz Tommy Perman, is sublime, expansive and timeless.
You might compare their slow-release euphoria to Low or Dirty Three, but then you could also align their philharmonic indie psalms with hip-hop, in statement if not execution (‘eagleowl versus woodpigeon’ is a beatific, seasick rebuttal to the latter’s ‘Woodpigeon vs. Eagleowl’). Or you might discern Cliff Richard’s spectre on sexually-bereft pop lament, ‘It’s So Funny’. There is aching nostalgia (‘Summerschool’), lots of silence, distortion and exquisite humour: not just because the swansong is called ‘Laughter’ but because, after all of this time, it ends, prematurely.
In many ways, eagleowl are true to their moniker – enigmatic and wise, equally versed in patience, restraint and attack (there's rampant evidence on the searing ‘Too Late in the Day’). But let us not be shackled by zoomorphic accords, because eagleowl are also gorgeous pop tortoises: hard-working, enduring and quietly all-conquering. Slow and steady wins the race.