Monday, February 7, 2011

Album review - Owensie 'Aliens'

(Out On A Limb)

THE Limerick based independent record label, Out On A Limb, have something of a nose for talent that is perhaps not sufficiently recognised in Irish music circles.
The label - run on a ‘DIY ethos’ and punching far, far above its weight - was set-up in 2003 to facilitate the release of “Is It OK To Be Loud, Jesus?”, the debut album from hard-rockin’ and now defunct local band Giveamanakick. In the intervening years, OOAL has released albums by Windings, Crayonsmith, Hooray for Humans, Rest and Ten Past Seven, providing an outlet for some of the finest in up and coming Irish music, refusing to be just limited to the confines of the burgeoning Limerick music scene.

OOAL return this February with the debut release from Michael Owens (no relation!), who styles himself under the monicker, ‘Owensie’.

A haunting collection of warm and atmospheric classical guitar-based tracks with a folk-tinged sentimentality, the talented Dublin songwriter has an interesting background as a former member of the considerably more intense Puget Sound and Terrordactyl, and is currently a guitarist with rock outfit Realistic Train. Terrordactyl indeed contained members of jaw-droppingly loud rock band Adebisi Shank, so Owens’ background is on far different terrain to the flamenco-bossanova, cinematic landscapes present on this album.

A nine-track album that boasts reference points as disparate as Jose Gonzalez and Albert Niland, Owens’ vocals verge from the haunting to the sublime on ‘Aliens’, with his rock-background informing proceedings and lifting the album out of the ordinary, singer-songwriter territory.
Because of that the opener and title-track is a brooding and unsettling offering, with ringing guitar strings and a haunting violin accompaniment, while the piano-based ‘Cat and Mouse’ offers a gorgeously warm counter-point with superb harmonies.

This is a deeply affecting and addictive album that contains several layers on repeated listens, the simplicity of the music at first a distraction, the depth of feeling gradually becoming more apparent than first glance suggests. The jazzy ‘Cat and Mouse’, largely without vocals, is upbeat and allows Owens to flex his considerable guitar skills, while the more urgent, Chequerboard-esque ‘Ronda’ swells with strings.

Overall, this often malevolent album is deceptive, dark and takes some listening to appreciate its depth, but when you do, it becomes eminently rewarding, and a fitting addition to the OOAL stable.


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