Low Level Owl is an album at once immediately accessible through its standard combination of guitars, bass, drums—the usual stuff that ends up turning me off from a band. We’ve all been through the 1990s by now, and we know what distorted guitars over competent basslines sound like. But every once in awhile, that accessibility has the power to invert itself, and create something new and powerful. Usually, from my perspective this quality is found by deliberate mating with psychedelic principles of sound and texture. The Appleseed Cast turn on the reverb, and construct a two-disc spanning day-light hallucination.
Lyrics are only caught in the mind for a moment, before floating away; they are low in the mix, part of the sound tapestry that glides and pushes the album forward. Each song blends in with the last, creating one very long song. The drumming here is above par, with a good amount of digitally processed effects to blur, tween, and animate the structures. There is a powerful emotive core to the entire Low Level Owl experience.
It is really hard for me to say what makes this album work as well as it does. It is not my usual kind of music, in that it almost has more in common with the dreaded non-genre of emo. And while other music labeled as such has never really been my thing, Low Level Owl certainly fulfills my lysergic longings. And while for the poor student purchasing both volumes may put a dent in the wallet (as the album is packaged and sold separately for an unknown reason by Deep Elm records), the actual listening experience makes the expenditure more than worthy.
View of a Burning City closes and opens the first and second disk. It is hypnotic and droning in all the best ways, implanting its notes in your head, doing what all the great psychedelic music can achieve: leaving an imprint that transcends the auditory experience, becoming at once visual, tactile, and beyond.
The second disc in particular finds the band fitting more into their experimental tendencies, producing more instrumental moments than on the prior. This makes the second disk more suited for intensive internal thought patterns, allowing the mind to program and reprogram and deconstruct and remove the various constructs that a difficult day can provide.
It is appropriate that the band places feathers on the cover of the albums, recalling the psychoactive Vurt feathers of Jeff Noon’s literary world. This is an album that may not strike the listener on the initial trial run, but once the songs allow themselves to burrow like an owl into your mind, whispering secrets and imparting its subtle knowledge and lessons—one cannot turn back.
- The Walking of Pertelotte
- On Reflection
- Blind Man’s Arrow
- Flowers Falling from Dying Hands
- Doors Lead to Questions
- Steps and Numbers
- Bird of Paradise
- Mile Marker
- A Tree for Trails
- View of a Burning City
- View of a Burning City (reprise)
- A Place in Line
- Shaking Hands
- Rooms and Gardens
- Ring Out the Warning Bell
- Sunset Drama King
- The Last in a Line
- The Argument
Ed Rose: Bass, Production, Drum Machine, Synthesizer, Strings
Christopher Crisci: Organ, Guitar, Piano, Vocals, Slide Guitar, Loops, Programming
Marcia Young: Bass
Released on October 23, 2001 (and do not allow the 23 law of fives escape you.)